MAC: Mines and Communities

Bolivia & Colombia deploy troops to curb illegal gold mining

Published by MAC on 2010-10-18
Source: Reuters, Herald Tribune, EFE

A "gold militarization"?

Large convoys of armed police are being sent to isolated areas of Bolivia and Colombia, where gold is being extracted on a small-scale.

Previously MAC has covered confrontations between small-scale/artisanal miners and the police in Southern Ecuador. See: Small-Scale Miners Fight Large-Scale Interests in Southern Amazon, Ecuador


Bolivia deploys troops to curb illegal gold mining


7 October 2010

LA PAZ - Bolivia's government has sent some 2,000 soldiers to stop wildcat miners from illegally mining gold in remote areas near the Brazilian border, the minister of mining said on Thursday.

The soldiers were sent on Wednesday to far-flung areas in the eastern regions of Santa Cruz and Beni, where there are some 24 small illegal gold mines.

Mining Minister Jose Pimentel said 23 people, including some foreigners, had been arrested as part of the operation. "They committed a crime and therefore they have to face legal sanctions, because these mines don't have the necessary permits, they don't have environmental papers, they don't pay taxes," Pimentel told reporters.

"From the beginning of the year we have been taking steps to combat illegal gold exports, to ensure that (gold) is mined for the good of the country," he added.

The only legal mine in the area where the troops have been deployed is a gold-silver-copper operation run by Canada's Orvana. Pimentel did not say whether it had been affected and no one was available for comment at the company's office in Bolivia.

Mineral-rich Bolivia is a big producer of zinc, silver, tin and lead, but mines little gold. (Reporting by Carlos Quiroga; Writing by Eduardo Garcia)

Brazil to Accept 25 Illegal Miners Arrested in Bolivia

Latin American Herald Tribune

‎10 October 2010‎

RIO DE JANEIRO - The Brazilian government will accept the repatriation of 25 of the 31 miners from this country who were arrested last week in Bolivia and accused of illegal gold mining, the Foreign Ministry announced on Sunday.

Four miners will be released and will remain in Bolivia after their immigration status is "normalized," while the two others will remain under arrest and will have to appear in court on charges of illegal mineral exploitation, according to an announcement by the Brazilian Foreign Ministry.

The Brazilian Consulate in Santa Cruz issued temporary passports to two of the arrested men who were in Bolivia without the proper papers.

The miners were arrested last Wednesday in a military operation at the illegal mine in the town of San Ramon, in Santa Cruz province, which borders on Brazil.

After their arrest, Bolivian authorities transferred the Brazilians to a prison in the nearby town of San Ignacio de Velasco, where they have remained until now.

The military operation, which involved about 1,000 Bolivian soldiers, was also mounted in the Amazon region of Beni and was aimed at "neutralizing" the illegal exploitation of gold and "retaking" Bolivian sovereignty over its territory along the border with Brazil, Bolivian authorities said on the date of the operation.

The head of the Border Zone Development Agency, Juan Ramon Quintana, said that the Brazilian miners "extorted" several Bolivians to get their land away from them and conduct their illicit activities.

Among those activities, in which Bolivian citizens were also involved, were the unregulated mining of minerals and illegal trafficking in wood and fuels.

Colombian Police Launch Offensive Against Illegal Mining


23 September 2010

BOGOTA - Colombian police have shut down 40 mines and arrested 16 people in a crackdown on illegal gold mining linked to armed groups, authorities said.

The operation, which began Sept. 11, targeted "illicit mining and environmental pollution" across a broad swath of the northwestern province of Cordoba, according to a police report.

Around 400 police took part in the sweep.

Communities near the unregulated mines suffered from the "improper use of mercury and other contaminating substances" found in soil and bodies of water.

The crackdown followed an order from President Juan Manuel Santos to "eradicate illegal mining in the region and harm the finances of the outlaw groups that foment violence with the resources derived from" the mines.

The effort was jointly coordinated by Environment Minister Beatriz Uribe and the director of the National Police, Gen. Oscar Naranjo.

Besides closing mines, police seized 21 backhoes, two dredgers and a bulldozer, as well as more than 4,000 liters (1,051 gallons) of fuel and 51 kilos (112 pounds) of mercury.

Authorities say the illegal mining "began with the forced expropriation of land promoted by the now-defunct United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia," or AUC, a federation of rightist militias that ostensibly demobilized in 2006.

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