An investigation that has been ongoing for a number of years has found that almost 70 percent of mining in Colombia is done so illegally. The figure is cause for concern, given its ongoing peace-building process.
The figures were accessed by El Tiempo from a five-volume publication sourced from Columbia’s Externado University. The report was made by using 93 investigators who recorded statistics for a two and half years, thus making it one of the most in-depth of its kind in Colombia.
Externado President Juan Carlos Henao stated that the main issue is that illegally-extracted minerals cannot be taxed, as well as posing problems with the proposed post-conflict Colombia the government is aiming for.
Academic researchers state that tackling the industry can only be done so with a change of mentality within the mining communities as well as local officials being aware of the appropriate law enforcement responses.
The findings also show that illegal mining could prove to be one of Colombia’s greatest challenges when it comes to security should the government and FARC agree to a peace deal. Illegal armed groups use mining as a major revenue source. The industry could be worth as much as $2.4 billion, making it more lucrative than drug trafficking.
Given the profit margins, many armed groups are looking to take over mining areas that FARC will abandon following a peace deal. An example of one such group is the Urabenos, who have been linked to the deaths of at least 17 community leaders in El Bagre, Antioquia, is renowned for its illegal mining and coca growing hubs.