In Colombia, a few large-scale gold mining companies produce approximately 30 percent of the gold, and small-scale gold miners approximately 70 percent. In Colombia a distinction is often made between artisanal mining and small-scale mechanized mining. The government only recognizes panning as artisanal. However, for local communities, artisanal mining also includes forms of mining that use small machinery, like pumps.
During colonization, Afro-Colombian communities have developed artisanal mining techniques, all based on manual labor. Depending on the location of the mineral deposit, the techniques used are referred to as Mazamorreo, Sambuyidero, Cascajero, Aguacorrida, Barequeo, Hoyadero or Guaches.
In most of these artisanal mining techniques no chemicals (mercury or cyanide) are used for mineral extraction. Sometimes they use resin from trees to retain more gold. In artisanal mining, men, women and children participate. For example, in the Mazamorreo technique, women do most of the labor. In indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, the participation of children in gold mining is part of the traditional practices and activities.
Non-artisanal small-scale miners use mechanized equipment. In the Chocó region, some of the equipment used includes small suction dredges, sluice boxes and water pumps. More sophisticated small-scale mining operation use hydraulic excavators and suction and spoon dredges.
Infografía: Pequeña minería en Chocó.