Colombian Army Deals Blow to Illegal Mining

Colombian Army Deals Blow to Illegal Mining

By Myriam Ortega/Diálogo
June 18, 2020

In mid-May, in a joint operation with the Colombian Navy, Air Force, and the National Police, the Colombian Army dealt a hard blow to illegal mining in the Chocó department. The operation led to the destruction of three engines, three backhoes, and two mining production units that helped finance the criminal activities of the Manuel Hernández el Boche front of the National Liberation Army.

In a statement, the Colombian Military Forces Joint Command estimated the value of the equipment at $300,000 and the loss of the criminal group at some $6 million as a result of the actions taken by the authorities.

“[The illegal extraction of gold] enriches a few and generates extortion fee payments to various organized armed groups, this being the cause of violence and disturbances to public security, and most ironically, poverty and misery in the communities used for this illegal activity,” said to Diálogo an analyst from the Army’s Illegal Mining Brigade (BCMI, in Spanish), who asked not to be named for security reasons.

Preparations for the operation

“Thanks to information from military intelligence and the network of civic engagement, the location and quantity of equipment used for the illicit extraction of mining deposits (excavators, sorting machines, engines) was obtained,” the BCMI analyst said.

With air reconnaissance intelligence and undercover agents, BCMI verified the information received. The unit then transported by air explosive expert personnel (to destroy the equipment found), terrain analysts, and environmentalists to carry out the operation.

“The Navy component undertook fluvial infiltration in order to infiltrate military and police maneuvering units, which carried out the mission,” the BCMI analyst said. “At that point, areas were cleared and searched in depth to avoid compromising the safety of the people who were there; even though they do illegal work, they are not considered a military objective.”

The operation was carried out within the framework of the Artemis Campaign against deforestation and to protect the environmental heritage that the Iván Duque government launched in 2019. During 2020, BCMI, with the support of the Military Forces, the Police, and the Attorney General’s Office carried out 124 joint operations and 274 captures. Authorities neutralized 117 illegal mines, 123 dredges, 26 construction machines, 354 motors, 72 motor pumps, 49 tunnels, 186 kilograms of explosives, and seized 90,320 liters of fuel.

“The illegal exploitation of mining sites in Colombia has caused heinous crimes and irreversible damages to our ecosystem, especially in areas as biodiverse as Chocó,” concluded the BCMI analyst. “Safeguarding the natural resources of our country and the Chocó department guarantees the fundamental rights of the civilian population and the protection of the region’s fauna, flora, and water sources.”