HomeNewsBrief70% of Colombia Mining is Illegal: Study

A multi-year investigation has revealed that up to 70 percent of mining in Colombia is illegal, a statistic that brings home the importance of tackling this criminal industry as part of the country's ongoing peace-building process.

The figures, accessed by El Tiempo, come from a five-volume publication by Colombia's Externado University, which took 93 investigators two and a half years to complete. According to El Tiempo, it is considered to be the most in-depth investigation of its kind in Colombia.

Externado President Juan Carlos Henao said the main issues with illegal mining are financial, since illegally extracted minerals cannot be taxed, and environmental, given that 180 metric tons of mercury that are produced as waste each year, El Tiempo reported.

Henao also said this criminal industry involving multiple illegal armed actors will be an important challenge for "post-conflict" Colombia. The Colombian government and rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) reached an agreement in late June on a bilateral ceasefire, bringing the two sides closer to a final peace agreement. 

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Mining

Academic researchers told El Tiempo that tackling the industry will require a long-term change in mentality within mining communities, as well as educating local officials about appropriate law enforcement responses.

InSight Crime Analysis

The university's figures are further indication that illegal mining will be one Colombia's greatest security challenges should the government and FARC succeed in signing a final peace agreement. The FARC have deep ties to the illegal mining industry, which is one of the guerrilla group's principal source of illicit income.

The illegal mining sector has become a major revenue generator for various other illegal armed groups as well. It is an industry that could be worth $2.4 billion a year, according to government estimates, and last year President Juan Manuel Santos suggested criminal mining is more lucrative than drug trafficking.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of FARC Peace

Given these steep profit margins, it comes as little surprise that Colombian groups are already fighting for control of mining areas that the FARC will presumably abandon once a peace deal is reached, most notably in the departments of Antioquia and Chocó.

One such group is the Urabeños, the country's most powerful criminal organization. The Urabeños have most recently been linked to the assassination of at least 17 community leaders in the municipality of El Bagre, Antioquia, over the past six months alone. El Bagre is both an illegal mining and coca-growing hub, and has already been affected by territorial clashes between the Urabeños and the FARC.

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 / 3 MAR 2016

Following a damaging sex scandal, Colombia's new police chief is attempting to restore his institution's image while also reducing crime,…

COLOMBIA / 16 MAY 2016

Colombia seized eight metric tons of cocaine from the Urabeños criminal band, but the biggest drug bust in years speaks…

ARGENTINA / 21 SEP 2011

Reports that two of Colombia’s most wanted drug traffickers traveled to Argentina to hold talks are only the latest evidence…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

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…