Colombia’s defense minister on Monday proposed that all gold must be sold to the country’s central bank to prevent illegal armed groups’ involvement in profitable illegal mining operations.
Speaking at the first International Forum on Illegal Mining, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon called on authorities and Congress to amplify regulation of the mostly informal mining sector that has seen the increased involvement of illegal armed groups.
Rebel group FARC, drug cartel “Los Rastrojos” and neo-paramilitary group “Los Urabeños” have all been accused of involvement in the informal mining business by either operating mining projects, renting equipment to informal and artisan miners and protection racketeering.
Informally mined gold is currently sold to middlemen or pawn shops, making it impossible to determine how the gold was obtained and whether it was mined illegally.
“The time has come to again have a powerful state regulator that, one way or another, will be that acquires all the obtained gold. This would then more easily allow to determine which gold is legal and which is illegal,” Pinzon said.
The minister said that his idea is not supposed to persecute informal and artisan miners, whose mining is mostly unregulated, but to effectively reduce revenue for criminal organizations also accused of drug trafficking.
In fact, the minister said, it is “necessary” that the armed forces work together with miners to combat crime.
Pinzon proposed that the country’s central bank be the body to regulate the buying, selling and exporting of gold in the country.
According to government statistics, some 55.7 metric tons of gold was extracted from Colombian soil in 2013. The vast majority of miners carry out their activities without the necessary licenses.