HomeNewsAnalysisGold Overtaking Coca for Colombia's Gangs: Report
ANALYSIS

Gold Overtaking Coca for Colombia's Gangs: Report

COLOMBIA / 12 SEP 2012 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

Illicit gold mining has overtaken coca as the main source of funding for criminal organizations in at least eight Colombian provinces, according to a report.

According to a recently released study by the Toledo International Center for Peace (known by its Spanish acronym as CITpax), a Spanish conflict-analysis organization, illegal gold mining has overtaken coca production as the main source of income for armed groups in eight of Colombia’s 32 provinces (see map below). The report says that guerrillas and other armed groups in these provinces -- Antioquia, Choco, Cordoba, Bolivar, Santander, Tolima, Valle del Cauca and Cauca -- are taking advantage of a nationwide uptick in gold mining, extorting local mining endeavors and raking in bigger and bigger profits.

Colombia’s “gold rush” has been a boon for the coffers of guerrilla groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), as well as drug trafficking groups like the Rastrojos and Urabeños. CITpax estimates that 86 percent of all gold in the country is mined illegally, and that as much as 20 percent of the profits from these illegal endeavors go to the FARC, with the ELN and other criminal organizations controlling smaller shares.

Illegal Mining Overtaking Coca in Colombia

The report also suggests that these groups -- especially the FARC -- are deepening their involvement in the mining process itself. Whereas other accounts have noted that illegal groups charge a fee to pan gold or use heavy machinery in these areas, the CITpax report says that the FARC are now directly supervising the purchase and operation of bulldozers and other large scale equipment in the provinces of Choco and Nariño, as well as in the north Antioquian region of Bajo Cauca. The report also suggests that this activity is run from the higher levels of the guerrilla group. In the central province of Tolima, for instance, the FARC’s Central Joint Command reportedly ordered the acquisition of mining machinery, presumably to “rent out” at a profit to more experienced miners.

InSight Crime Analysis

The report supports InSight Crime's findings on a recent trip to the north Antioquian municipalities of Anori and Amalfi, a hotspot for illegal gold mining. Miners in the area reported that armed groups were deepening their involvement, to the extent that they were forcing some people out of the business. In fact, one local miner told InSight Crime in August that the extortion fees that they had been charged for the use of equipment had recently gone up by 300 percent, causing many mining operators to withdraw from the area completely.

Locals said that the FARC is not working alone to extort illegal mining. According to one Anori businessman with connections to the gold mining business, the FARC is now working directly with the ELN and other criminal networks in the area to “share the cake,” splitting extortion fees amongst themselves with little to no infighting over resources. If true, this is the latest sign that the guerrillas are working more closely with other criminal groups like the Rastrojos.

Locals in Anori and Amalfi said that these groups’ deepened involvement in illegal mining would reduce overall mining output. Because there are few other lucrative alternatives to gold mining in these areas, many fear that coca cultivation will increase as a result, as small-time miners return to their remote plots.

At the heart of this issue are the difficulties of regulating the mining trade, as InSight Crime has pointed out. Until the Colombian government can guarantee the safety and legal status of those involved in mineral extraction, illegal armed groups will continue to exploit them.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 20 MAR 2012

Colombia's government announced plans for a new anti-smuggling task force to counter the contraband trade, which is estimated to cost…

CIACS / 2 JUN 2017

In our June 1 Facebook Live, co-directors Steven Dudley and Jeremy McDermott spoke about InSight Crime’s special investigation…

COLOMBIA / 23 MAY 2012

Colombian police reported breaking up two heroin smuggling rings, pointing to links between major criminal groups and the little-known independent…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…