The FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group, owns more than 67 diggers in just one town in the north of the country, leasing the machines to local gold miners in exchange for 50% of the gold obtained, the Colombian army said Thursday.
General Leonardo Pinto of the Colombian army’s Nudo de Paramillo Task Force told W Radio there were more than 2,000 pieces of heavy mining equipment in the gold-producing Bajo Cauca, southern Cordoba and southern Bolivar regions. Miners paid 5 million pesos to rent the equipment and a further 2 million pesos each month.
According to the general, FARC rebels owned 67 of those machines in Cordoba’s Nori municipality alone, while stating the FARC and neo-paramilitary group “Los Urabeños” exhorted direct ownership over several mines in the department. Pinto highlighted the army’s intervention in over 130 illegal gold mines in the department.
General Hernan Giraldo Restrepo of the army’s Seventh Division told Colombia Reports the FARC had concentrated their forces to a so-called mining corridor stretching from northern Antioquia and southern Cordoba to the south of Bolivar. Giraldo said three FARC blocs were involved in the struggle for the valuable resource.
The Northwestern Bloc has increasingly displaced its troops to this mining area, while the Middle Magdalena Bloc, under the command of Secretariat member “Pastor Alape,” Meanwhile, two weakened fronts of the FARC’s Caribbean Bloc, the 37th and 35th, were under orders from Pastor Alape to re-build finances by getting involved in the mining corridor together with the other FARC units. The Seventh Division said the 35th and 37th were only active in the gold-producing Zaragoza and Segovia municipalities, meaning they had been displaced from their traditional in the northern Montes de Maria region.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s most recent coca cultivation monitor showed a reduction in coca cultivation in Cordoba, Antioquia and Bolivar. In Cordoba, coca cultivation decreased by 72% in 2011 compared to 2010. In Antioquia, the reduction stood at 42% and in Bolivar, 34%.
FACT SHEET: Gold mining in Colombia