There are various conflicts around gold mining in Colombia. The risen gold price has caused a lot of people to migrate and get involved in gold mining. These new miners from other regions, without titles to the land or to the mineral resources, want to make a lot of money in the shortest possible time without environmental concerns. These migrations have also led to conflicts resulting from cultural clashes and the disruption of traditional practices.
Another condition that promotes violence and aggravates conflict, is that small-scale mining has been associated with drug trafficking operations, money laundering and financing of illegal armed groups. Drug traffickers typically buy gold from small-scale miners or are involved in mining operations directly to launder money.
Next to this, there are conflicts between local communities and mining companies. If a company wants a mining title in an indigenous or Afro-Colombian territory, the ethnic communities are notified and given thirty days to file all the relevant documentation so that they can be granted the mining title. If they do not file the documentation accordingly, the mining title is automatically given to the company or individual that previously made the request. This is a recurrent source of conflict between Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, the Government and mining companies.
For example, the South African company Anglo Gold Ashanti gained official authorization to mineral exploration, in a national forest reserve area where also a water conservation area was proposed. The area hosts many headwaters that supply water for downstream users; particularly the city of Ibague, home to 500,000 people and large rice production activities. Today this conflict remains unresolved, although the company continues to perform exploratory activities.
The large mining companies often misuse their power and legal status to get rid of local communities, who have traditionally mined in places where these companies have acquired mining titles. In general, the small-scale miners have little means to fight back.
- Wilmar, A. (2014). Ríos en disputa. Conflictos mineros en Chocó durante el siglo xx. In: Culturas, ecología humana y ciudadanías. Gutiérrez Tamayo, A. & Toro Bedoya, G. (eds.), pp. 56-76. Medellin: Universidad de Antioquia
- Ayala Mosquera, H. (2011). La minería en en Pacifico y el Chocó, un conflict complejo que amarita un análisis interdimensional.
- Mining in Colombia – Gold and Guerillas.
- Conflicts in gold mines in Colombia.
- New gold rush fuels old conflict.
- Conflicts about water and gold.
- Al Jazeera report (film).