HomeNewsAnalysisWhat Will Happen to FARC Mining Interests If Peace Talks Succeed?
ANALYSIS

What Will Happen to FARC Mining Interests If Peace Talks Succeed?

COLOMBIA / 26 OCT 2012 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

With the FARC seemingly deepening their involvement in illegal mining, InSight Crime takes a look at what could happen to the Colombian guerrilla group’s stake in the industry should the peace talks see success.

The first round of negotiations between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government in more than a decade officially began on October 18. While many were taken aback by the FARC’s use of fiery rhetoric in a subsequent press conference, there is reason to believe that Colombia’s decades-long armed conflict can come to an end. As analyst Adam Isacson has pointed out, the guerrillas have so far participated in the talks “with seriousness and discipline,” demonstrating an encouraging commitment to the peace process.

But if the talks do go well, potentially resulting in the FARC’s demobilization, what will remain of the illicit finance networks is unclear. The group’s involvement in the drug trade is one of the five pillars up for discussion with the government, with Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon estimating earlier this week that the rebel group earns from $2.4-$3.5 billion annually from the drug trade. But this is only one of many sources of funding for the rebels. As InSight Crime has reported, illegal mining — and gold mining in particular — is fast becoming a central resource for the FARC. Indeed, a study released in September by the Toledo International Center for Peace (CITpax) found that illegal gold mining had overtaken coca production as the main source of income for the FARC and other armed groups in eight of Colombia’s 32 provinces.

A recent investigation by El Colombiano supports this claim, finding that in the province of Antioquia, rebels charge the equivalent of between $1,600 and $2,750 for each piece of heavy equipment that illegal mining ventures bring in to their areas of control. On top of this, they also charge for the entrance of gasoline, and demand a 10 percent cut of all profits. As El Colombiano notes, this is somewhat ironic given that the head of the FARC’s negotiating team, Luciano Marin, alias “Ivan Marquez,” devoted much of his public remarks in the post-talk press conference to denouncing the “exploitative” practices of large scale mining companies in the country.

InSight Crime Analysis

In many ways the issue of what will become of the FARC’s mining activities is linked to the broader question of the government’s approach to regulating the entire mining sector. Since 2002 the government has encouraged the mining sector, drastically increasing the distribution of mining permits in the country. Despite this, some estimate that nearly half of all mining in Colombia is illegal, or conducted by small scale mines without formal permits.

The government has promised to make it easier for mining ventures to acquire legal permits, but there are still at least 6,000 mines in the country that are currently considered illegal. This measure could be vital to weakening the FARC’s hold on mining. If these reforms were more strongly embraced by the state, it would grant miners the means to report extortion without fearing legal consequences.

Still, the rising price of minerals like gold gives guerrillas an incentive to hang on to their investments. Even if the FARC were to demobilize at the conclusion of peace talks, many cells currently profiting from mining would likely continue their activities despite the wishes of their commanders. Some analysts fear that a FARC demobilization would mirror the failed 2003-2006 demobilization of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), in which a number of mid-level commanders and those under them turned in their arms only to return to their criminal past.

There is also evidence that guerrillas in some areas of the country are deepening their involvement in the mining process itself. The CITpax report found that in the central province of Tolima, the FARC’s Central Joint Command had reportedly purchased mining machinery, presumably to rent it out at a profit to miners in the area.

Since the “end” of the conflict would likely fuel further investment in Colombia’s already booming mining sector, it could put elements of the FARC hanging on to their mining operations at odds with large-scale, permitted mining companies in the country. Extortions and kidnappings of mining employees, which guerrillas have committed in the past, may increase and become more targeted as remnants of the group find themselves competing for resources and land. As such, any expansion of mining will likely require the Colombian military to prioritize security for multinational and domestic mining projects. 

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 5 MAY 2011

The arrest of an alleged cousin of Osama bin Laden, accused of running a human trafficking ring in Ecuador, is…

COLOMBIA / 20 DEC 2017

The recent arrest of one of the top criminal figures in Medellín, Colombia, is unlikely to have a major impact…

BOLIVIA / 29 MAY 2017

A new report by an advocacy group based in Bolivia details how the Andean nation's failed experiences with forced coca…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…