HomeNewsAnalysisMapping Where the FARC Controls Colombia's Mines
ANALYSIS

Mapping Where the FARC Controls Colombia's Mines

COLOMBIA / 10 OCT 2011 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

Across Colombia, unlicensed mines provide an extra source of funds for drug trafficking organizations like the FARC. But it's not clear whether the government's push to legalize the industry takes into account that not all forms of illegal mining are the same.

According to a study by Colombia's intelligence service, the DAS, and seen by El Espectador, up to 50 percent of Colombia's mines are unlicensed. Many of them are a source of funding for armed groups like the Rastrojos or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Since 2010, the government has been engaged in a nationwide push to shut down unlicensed mines, seize machinery and reform the laws which dictate how the offense should be prosecuted. But the campaign has been a difficult one.

One problem is that not all criminal groups have the same relationship to unlicensed mining. This means that even though the security forces talk of fighting "illegal" mining, not all illegal mining is the same and it is unclear that the government has mapped out the various strategies needed to address this.

In some cases, criminals tax the machiney -- backhoes and trommels -- used for alluvial mining. In northern Antioquia, for example, the FARC charges at least three million pesos (about $1,650) for a machine to enter their territory. The guerrillas then charge a monthly "maintanance" tax per machine, and destroy the equipment belonging to miners who don't make payments on time.

In municipalities like Timbiqui and Santander de Quilichao in Cauca, where the DAS counts almost 70 backhoes, this would represent significant profits for the FARC.

In this scenario, criminal groups earn most of their profits from Colombia's mechanized mining. The more traditional gold panners -- who often work in the rivers with the most basic equipment -- are not the principle targets of extortion. The FARC are taxing the machinery, not the workers themselves. In Putumayo, the FARC are believed to charge three million pesos a month on machinery.

In other cases, criminal bands (known by the government as BACRIMs) and guerrilla groups directly control mines and tax the amount of material produced. In this case, gold panners are directly affected. In Valle del Cauca, panners have to pay 10 percent of their earnings to a Rastrojos faction, according to a DAS report. The FARC charge a similar fee in Guainia, where gold and coltan miners pay a 10 percent tax on their daily profits.

Based on the El Espectador report, InSight Crime has mapped the areas where there are concentrations of mines controlled -- both directly and indirectly -- by criminal groups.


View Arenal del Sur, Bolivar in a larger map

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.

Tags

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

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 19 JAN 2011

On Saturday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos released a series of intercepted emails between leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces…

COLOMBIA / 7 OCT 2016

The awarding of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos adds a new, potentially game-changing element…

BRAZIL / 9 FEB 2021

It was around 5 a.m. when the MSC Gayane cargo freighter docked in the port of Philadelphia on June 17,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…