Illegal Mining Raises Security, Environmental Concerns in Colombia

Illegal Mining Raises Security, Environmental Concerns in Colombia
People watch machinery used to dig in search or survivors at a collapsed illegal gold mine in Santander de Quilichao, southern Colombia, May 1, 2014 (AP Photo/Oswaldo Paez, El Pais).

The head of the United Nations refugee agency in Colombia recently told Reuters that illegal mining and drug-fueled gang violence will continue to displace citizens, even if a peace deal is signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In an email interview, Juan F. Vargas, a professor of economics at the University of Rosario in Bogota, discussed the impacts of illegal mining in Colombia.

WPR: How widespread is illegal mining in Colombia, and who are the main groups profiting from it?

Juan F. Vargas: Illegal mining is quite widespread in Colombia and is present along the Pacific coast and in most departments west of the East Andes. There is very little illegal mining in the Southeast of the country. The departments most affected are in the west: Antioquia, Valle del Cauca, Choco, Huila and Narino.

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