A report from the New York Times published Friday examines the way that gold mining in northern Colombia, particularly the department of Antioquia, is providing an extra source of funds for drug-trafficking organizations. InSight takes a closer look at the dynamics of the conflict in the key gold-producing regions of Anori and Amalfi.
The northern department of Antioquia is the hub of Colombia’s current gold rush. As previously detailed by InSight, with international gold prices reaching record highs, licensed and unlicensed miners are increasingly moving into the area — accompanied by criminal interests.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) in particular, have grown reliant on funds extorted from local gold miners. During two trips to the region in March and July 2010, InSight learned that the FARC’s 36th Front typically charge between three and eight million pesos (between about $1,650 and $4,500) for each bulldozer that enters the territory. Those who don’t pay up have their equipment attacked and destroyed by the rebels.
The income from gold mining has provided the FARC’s 36th Front with a hefty supplement to their drug trafficking activities. Other criminal groups, including the Urabeños and the Paisas, are thought to control gold mines in Antioquia’s Bajo Cauca region, where an estimated 23 tons of gold are thought to be illegally extracted each year.
In the map below, InSight highlights the strategic locations of the various criminal interests operating in Amalfi and Anori, the municipalities which serve as the 36th Front’s stronghold.
View InSight Map: Gold Mining in Colombia in a larger map