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In the latest effort against illegal mining, the Colombian government has created a new unit dedicated to stopping illegal mining in the country, according to a press release by Colombia’s Ministry of Defense.

The National Intervention Unit Criminal Against Mining (UNIMIC) was created as an agency responsible for joint actions between security forces, control agencies, and the Ministries of Defense, Interior, Environment, and Mining and Energy.

The newly-established UNIMIC will focus on the abduction, trafficking, and sale of illegal mining products, according to the Ministry of Defense.

The decision to create the group was made after evaluating policies, processes, and criminal legal proceedings against mining, according to the press release.

In May of this year, Inspector General  Alejandro Ordoñez called for an investigation into mine security after mines collapsed in the states of Cauca and Antioquia.  The country received international criticism over the environmental damage and human right’s issues caused by illegal mines and the country’s inability to fully address the issue.

Ordoñez has asked the ministries to look into the operation of informal mines, which endanger the lives and safety of the staff who work there.

MORE: Colombia’s mining industry under scrutiny after series of fatal incidents

The damage caused by mines also spreads through water contamination. Mining requires a constant supply of water and it usually takes place by rivers or streams so the water can be extracted by pumps. This water usually ends up returning back to its source with a number of contaminants.

Environmental Effects

Careless mining practices can cause devastating effects on the surrounding areas. Some, like in the northwestern state of Risaralda, are experiencing the worst amount of damage from mining in the history of that region, local media reported.

MORE: Environmental damage by illegal mining in northwest Colombia “worst in history” 

In Risaralda, the pollution of the Aquita river has killed entire populations of fish as well as damage to trees and wildlife. There are reports of lakes double the size of Olympic swimming pools, filled with cyanide and mercury, according to the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Risaralda (CADER).

The size of the problem

Last November, environmental prosecutors warned that 22 of Colombia’s 33 states were affected by illegal mining, local media reported.

MORE: 2/3rd of Colombia’s states affected by illegal mining: Environmental prosecutors 

Illegal mining has not only caused damages to two-thirds of all the Colombian states but has also led to other crimes, said Gloria Elsa Arias, head of the environmental unit of the Prosecutor General’s Office.


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