Illegal mining has resulted in 280 violent deaths this year in Colombia’s northern Antioquia Department, according to the CEO of Grand Colombia Gold, a Canadian-based mining company with major projects in Colombia.
Maria Consuelo Araujo, who is a former Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs, told national news outlets that her company has made a major investment in the region, but “nothing has been done” to stanch the activity of criminal bands.
According to Araujo, there are leaflets circulating in the streets warning that “anyone who is not at home after 10 at night will be killed.” Local police indicated that the violence was primarily due to a confrontation between the Rastrojos and Urabeños groups.
The NGO Insight Crime, which tracks organized crime in the Americas, reported last month that approximately 86% of gold in Colombia is mined illegally, and noted that such illegal activity usually leads to violence.
At an international mining conference last week, Colombian Mining Minister Federico Renjifoemphasized the need to tighten control of the nation’s mining industry.
“All we think about is how to consolidate Colombia as a mining country,” Renfijo said.
Renjifo touted the industry’s successes in recent years, but the increase in illegal mining is a headache for the Colombian economy. As the English-language website Colombia Reports puts it, “the Gold Wars have resulted in more than just a loss of money, but blood as well.”