Clash Over Illegal Mining Kills 9 in French Guiana

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A clash between two gangs over illegal gold mining has killed nine in French Guiana, in an example of the violence often associated with illicit mining in the overseas French department.

French Guianan Police say a total of nine have been killed and two wounded in an apparent clash over illegal gold mining. In response, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, who was visiting at the time of the incident, vowed to take harsher measures against illegal miners there.

According to Radio France Internationale, most illegal miners in French Guiana come from neighboring Brazil. At least one of the six found dead so far has been tentatively identified as a Brazilian citizen.

Police Commander Colonel Didier Laumont said that “This is a gang which possesses assault rifles, weapons of war,” reports AFP.

InSight Crime Analysis

Illegal gold mining appears to be on the rise across the region. In many cases, like in Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia, countries have deployed their armies to combat the phenomenon.

As the price of gold continues to rise, organized crime groups have taken notice of its potential for profit. InSight Crime has reported on the increasing importance of gold mining to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who have sought to diversify their sources of income due to pressure from authorities on drug trafficking.

The upwards trend in the price of gold ensures that illegal mining will become increasingly alluring to criminal groups, and violence is likely to result. An incident similar to that in French Guiana occurred less than a month ago in Venezuela, with groups apparently clashing over mining sites.

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