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Colombia’s fight against illegal mining

The Colombian government has made good on its promise to vigorously crack down on illegal mining, carried out by organized armed groups, and causes irreparable environmental damage.

The results have been telling.

On May 10, for example, the National Police reported the destruction of 32 mining machines in Tutendo, Certegui, and Rio Quito in the department of Chocó, valued at US$2.8 million.

, Colombia’s fight against illegal mining
For the armed groups, illegal mining is a business that is more lucrative than drug trafficking (Photo internet reproduction)

These machines are not only a costly investment for criminal groups but also require meticulous coordination to smuggle them into mining operations.

In late March, the Navy reported that a joint operation in Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca Department, also destroyed two mining production facilities worth more than US$21,000, halting criminal mining activities in the area.

On March 7, this time in the Department of Antioquia, the government reported the destruction of a significant amount of machinery and materials used for illegal mining without providing exact details.

A few days earlier, also in Antioquia, authorities reported the destruction of 40 illegal mines.

According to the Ministry of Defense, between early August 2022 and early February 2023, Colombian security forces went into nearly 1,000 illegal mines, seizing and destroying hundreds of machines and equipment used for illegal mining, such as excavators, pumps, engines, and large quantities of liquid and solid operating materials.

“The armed groups of the Clan del Golfo are the ones that are present in these areas and profit from the environmental damage that occurs there,” said Major Johann Guzmán, commander of Marine Infantry Battalion No. 21 of the Colombian Marine Corps.

According to Guzmán, criminal groups employ residents of these areas who work under pressure in the mines with the machinery supplied.

“These are jobs controlled by these groups because they are the ones who profit and collect the gold extracted,” Guzmán continued.

Illegal gold mining has long plagued Latin America, including Colombia.

Venezuela’s neighbor has banned mercury in mining since 2018, but the highly toxic metal continues to be used extensively in gold extraction.

In addition, “the use of machinery without any control in these areas leads to deforestation and affects water sources, as the dumping of chemicals such as cyanide and mercury used in processing this type of materials contaminate rivers.

This damages the riverbanks and the rivers into which they flow, directly affecting the communities that live along these riverbanks.

For the armed groups, illegal mining is a business that is more lucrative than drug trafficking.

“Compared to the illegal coca business, where a kilogram of coca can be had on the Colombian market for about US$1,075, a kilogram of illegal gold costs about US$5,300, which has caused this business to skyrocket; and today it is contaminating [the environment] in a critical way,” complains Delegate for the Environment Gabriel Adolfo Jurado when he presented a summary of his agency’s activities in late July 2022.

According to the Navy, in 2022 and through the end of April 2023, authorities arrested 82 people for illegal mining.

They seized 11,438 kg of metals, including 454 kg of gold, 54.2 kg of mercury, 2,142 kg of tin, 8,777 kg of coltan, and 10 kg of copper.

News Colombia, English news Colombia, illegal mining in Colombia

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