Colombia’s mining minister emphasized on Wednesday the necessity to formalize the mining sector in order to combat illicit mining and its consequences like miners being extorted by illegal armed groups.
At the International Mining Fair in the second largest city Medellin on Wednesday, Mining and Energy Minister Federico Renjifo explained that despite the existing Mining Code, controlling and formalizing the industry is a necessary reform that needs to be made.
The Colombian government has struggled with controlling and formalizing mining for years which is allegedly crucial to the advancement of the industry.
“We want control, in the interests of improving industrial quality, to prioritize the titles of mining production. All we think about is how to consolidate Colombia as a mining country, that would be an example in the region,” Renjifo said, “Advancing towards the consolidation of a mining country is no easy task. We know that the country is expecting.”
Renjifo also conveyed that the mining industry was doing well, exceeding many of its past goals but that improvement still needs to be made. The minister seemed confident in the industry’s prospects, saying that, “we will be able to reach the highest standards of quality. In this government, we are working for the security of the miners of this country.”
Ultimately, Renjifo said the mining industry needed to be trusted, stable and responsible in expanding production and take “respectful initiatives” in relation to its workers, the environment and legalization.
The Colombian mining industry has a history of illegal mining, putting both the environment and its illegal workers at higher risk since they are not subject to state standards and regulations. Battling illegal mining with legally granted mining titles has been a challenge for the mining and energy ministry for years.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has referred to illegal mining as “a cancer that must be removed,” and as a “criminal practice that has not only generated pressures and extortion for legal miners, but that has also caused disastrous damage to our environment.”
Critics of Colombia’s mining policy say the government is putting local small and medium scale miners’ interests behind that of multinational miners.