In the latest sign of the challenges faced by foreign miners in insurgent-heavy parts of a Colombia at the height of its mining boom, the country’s No. 2 Marxist insurgency, the National Liberation Army (ELN) freed a Canadian contractor this week.
Jernoc Wobert had been held captive for 221 days and his release met one of the demands by President Juan Manuel Santos to enable the start of peace talks with the group amid promises by his company to abandon mining in the region.
He was first kidnapped in northern Bolivar province with two Peruvian and three Colombian miners contracted by the Toronto-based Braeval Mining Corp. His colleagues were later freed by the ELN.
The ELN, which opposes foreign mining in Colombia, promised to free Wobert after Toronto-based Braeval said last month it would no longer mine in the area where he was kidnapped. The company, however, did not link the decision to Wobert's capture, according to a report in the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Wobert was released in a rural area to the the Red Cross where he was examined by a doctor. Since an influx of more than $7 billion in weaponry and financial assistance began in 2000, both the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the ELN have been marginalized to the point that Canadian junior miners and prospectors have flooded the countryside in one of the world’s great potential mining bonanzas.