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Nine people were killed and 15 injured after armed men raided Peru’s Ponderosa mine with explosives and took hostages, the Interior Ministry said late on Saturday.

Police have “taken control of the situation,” seven people have been arrested and weapons seized, the ministry said in a statement.

The attackers entered the mine shaft using explosive charges, “violently confronting internal security personnel from the company and taking four people hostage,” the ministry said.

Fernando Reategui, director of special operations for Peru’s police force, said police deployed 50 agents to area, doubling the current police presence, and had identified the group responsible for the attack.

“[Those arrested] are part of a criminal organization called La Gota del Norte, which is involved in illegal mining, extortion and assassinations,” Mr. Reategui said.

In a statement, Ponderosa said 10 workers were seriously injured and three had light injuries.

“These tragic events aren’t happening in isolation. They’re the result of a downward spiral of safety conditions in the zone,” the company said in a statement, adding that organized crime has led to an “exponential growth in illegal mining.”

The company said previous attacks have already led to the death of seven other workers and the destruction of 10 transmission towers. Ponderosa said criminal organization have been operating with “absolute impunity, under the mantle of protection granted by REINFO.”

REINFO is a program Peru’s government has used to grant permits to artisanal miners since 2017. Speaking to reporters in Lima, President Dina Boluarte said that illegal mining was a “scourge” and the government was “evaluating” artisanal mining permits in the area.

Peru’s National Society of Mining, Oil and Energy also issued a statement condemning the attack and exhorted the government to take measures to re-establish order in the region “where illegal miners want to establish ‘liberated territories’ and make the local population submit through violence.”

The attack comes a year after the impeachment and arrest of leftist former president Pedro Castillo, which sparked months of deadly protests that snarled activity at mines in the Andean country.

Peru is the world’s second-largest producer of copper, and an important silver and gold producer. India, Switzerland and Canada account for nearly two-thirds of Peru’s gold exports, according to the mining ministry.

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