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An aerial view of the rain forest, including the destruction caused by gold mining, near the city of Quibdo, Colombia, November 27, 2015 (Photo by Georg Ismar for DPA via AP Images).

Already a Scourge, Illegal Gold Mining in Colombia Is Getting Worse

Friday, July 27, 2018

In early July, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC, and Colombia’s Ministry for Mines and Energy reported that 66 percent of alluvial gold exploitation in the country is considered unregulated. Illegal mining is nothing new in Colombia, but the latest report indicated that the amount of affected land—84,000 hectares, or more than 200,00 acres—is up 6 percent since the UNODC’s first study on the subject in 2014.

The list of violent competitors trying to access these gold riches offers a snapshot of Colombia’s various social fault lines and conflicts. It includes the National Liberation Army, or ELN, a leftist guerilla group that comprises approximately 2,000 combatants; El Clan del Golfo, or Gulf Clan, a criminal syndicate formed from the ashes of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a 1990s-era paramilitary group known as AUC; and former members of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which ended its 52-year-long conflict with the Colombian government in 2016. Many miners are also drawn from Colombia’s poor rural population and indigenous peoples, as well as from the pool of migrant laborers from neighboring states. ...

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