(Photo: La Vanguardia Liberal)

Environmental prosecutors have warned that 22 of Colombia’s 33 states are seriously affected by the consequences of illegal gold mining, reported newspaper El Espectador on Thursday.

The statements were made during a summit of Latin-American ministers and public prosecutors of the environmental sector which is taking place in the capital Bogota.

The head of the environmental unit of the Prosecutor General’s office, Gloria Elsa Arias, stated that different forms of illegal mining have caused not only damages to the environment, but also a number of other crimes in the affected 22 states.

“We can’t only investigate the mining process, because it is a social problem. In this business there have been reported cases of forced displacement and those who stay in the mining area getting killed. There has also been evidence of child labor and even [child] prostitution,” said Arias during the summit.

OPINION: Why is large-scale mining a human rights issue in Colombia?

According to her, the reason for this situation is a lack of strong laws enabling the authorities to tackle the problem efficiently.

The prosecutor general’s office is currently working on 6,000 investigations concerning illegal mining after the installation of a new prioritizing system that should help processing the cases, reported El Espectador.

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