Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed Wednesday his government will propose a law making illegal mining a crime.
The Santos administration will issue two executive decrees and support a bill before congress aimed at defining and eliminating illegal mining, which “has become the fuel of much of the violence in this country,” according to the president.
The first decree, already signed, would allow authorities to destroy confiscated mining machinery, while the second places import restrictions on mining technology.
The bill to go before the legislature aims to formally define and criminalize illegal mining. “One of the difficulties we have had is that the offense is poorly categorized. Nowadays all we can do with illegal miners is punish them for causing serious harm to the environment,” explained Santos.
Santos designated illegal mining a “high value objective” in February. He labelled the practice a “cancer that must be removed” from the Colombian economy.
Colombia’s policy towards small and medium scale informal mining companies has been fiercely criticized by miners, human rights organizations and the opposition.
Senator Jorge Robledo criticized the Santos administration, claiming the government is punishing informal and artisan miners “as if they were criminals, to clear their territories for the multinational mining companies.”