The New York Times photo blog features images from Choco, on Colombia‘s Pacific coast, where Afro-Colombian communities are menaced by armed groups who are taking control of the illicit gold mining industry.
The images featured in Lens, the New York Times photography blog, were taken by Venezuelan photographer Kike Arnal in 2009 and are accompanied by text from Simon Romero.
The Afro-Colombian communities that live in Choco, one of Colombia’s poorest regions, are facing a growing threat from criminal groups that are increasingly involved in Colombia’s illegal gold mining industry. As Romero points out, land in the region is also fought over for coca growing and drug smuggling routes.
As InSight Crime has detailed, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) control much of the gold mining in the neighboring province of Antioquia. New generation paramilitary groups such as the Urabeños and the Paisas are also involved in the business, and, according to Romero, the Choco mines are often run by gunmen from Antioquia.
The west Colombian province of Cauca is also home to illicit gold mining, as a recent PBS documentary reported, with the industry dominated in some areas by drug gangs that call themselves the Aguilas Negras.
Underwater miners in Choco
A woman works with bare hands at her mine in La Planta, Choco
An illegal, open-pit gold mine in Manungara, Tado, Choco