Death threats against local authorities prevented the closure of the recently collapsed mine in Colombia’s southern Cauca state, according to local media.
The local mayor denounced the death threats on Friday as well as claiming that there was not enough support from the national government reported Colombia’s Caracol Radio.
The illegal goldmine in Cauca’s northern region of Santander de Quilichao collapsed on Wednesday night after a “large landslide” killed three workers and trapped what authorities believe could be as many as thirty people, El Tiempo Newspaper reported.
Luis Eduardo Grijalba, the mayor of Santander de Quilichao, said the mine was unable to be closed due to repeated death threats against the local authorities.
Grijalba had allegedly already reported the structural vulnerability of the mine to the local mining authorities as well as the threats although nothing had been done about this.
“In April 2013 we took the decision to inform the relevant authorities that the mine should be closed. The National Mining Agency rejected this,” said the mayor.
One official working for the Interior Ministry reported being beaten by the community and forced to leave the town because he was threatened with death.
The mayor also said the industry was controlled by armed groups who were made up of, “men with money and weapons.”
He highlighted the shifting nature of the financing of armed group and the move away from gaining profits from drug dealing to the mining industry.
“Those who run the business are complicated people, drug trafficking has decreased because now mining is more lucrative … when a kilo of drugs is moved it is illegal … now moving a kilo of gold is legal.”
The mayor said that 120-140 illegal miners worked in between 40 to 50 mines in areas such as San Antonio and El Palmar just a few minutes from the town of Santander de Quilichao.
Environmental damage and human right’s issues caused by illegal mines throughout Colombian continue to be a problem and have previously brought on international criticism to the country’s government for failing to adequately address the ongoing practice.