HomeNewsA Toxic Trade: Illegal Mining in Colombia's Pacific Region
NEWS

A Toxic Trade: Illegal Mining in Colombia's Pacific Region

COLOMBIA / 11 MAR 2021 BY INSIGHT CRIME EN

Forests in Colombia are being ravaged by illegal mining, a criminal economy that has come to rival the drug trade for profits.

In 2015, the illegal gold trade in Colombia was worth an estimated 7 billion pesos, or about $2.4 billion, a year. Since then, the price of gold has skyrocketed, making illegal gold even more attractive to irregular armed actors of all stripes, from gangs to guerrillas. Gold is also easier to launder.

InSight Crime has teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to study the criminal activities driving deforestation, forest degradation and biodiversity loss in Colombia's Amazon and Pacific regions. The project -- titled “Transparent Governance of Natural Resources” and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) -- explores illegal mining, which is increasingly a central revenue stream for armed groups.

SEE ALSO: Organized Crime and the Environment in Latin America: A Fatal Encounter

Also partnering on the project are Transparency for Colombia (Transparencia por Colombia), a branch of Transparency International, and the Foundation for Conservation and Sustainable Development (Fundación para la Conservación y el Desarrollo Sostenible – FCDS), which is focused on Colombia’s Amazon region.

To make way for illicit mining operations, massive deforestation occurs before mercury and other chemicals are used to extricate gold ore, polluting rivers and intoxicating wildlife. While profiting directly from the sale of illegal gold, criminal groups also use the trade to launder money derived from drug trafficking.

This video explores the role that established criminal organizations play in illegal mining, along with how corruption underpins the lucrative trade’s operation. It reveals the devastating impact illegal mining is having on Colombia’s forests, biodiversity and communities, and shares how such operations can be combatted.

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 / 7 SEP 2011

Panama announced the arrest of 80 members of a Colombian-led drug trafficking organization that moved cocaine from Central America…

COLOMBIA / 21 JUN 2017

Colombia's dense jungle on the Caribbean coast is the heartland of the Urabeños, one of the most powerful criminal organizations…

COLOMBIA / 5 DEC 2018

In its fourth season, "Narcos: Mexico" has left Colombia's underworld to zoom in on the country that is now at…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…