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4 November 2011*
COLOMBIA ANYALYSIS: Who is paying Colombian armed groups for access to gold?*
by Pierre Shantz
Gold is the new way for illegal armed groups in Colombia to finance
themselves, according to a recent
report. However, both paramilitary and rebel guerrilla groups have profited
from gold mining in Colombia for years. It has only come to public
attention now because large mining companies have begun to stake claim to
Colombia’s reserves, some of the largest in the world, and small-scale
artisan miners stand in their way.
One of the organizations resisting the encroachment of the mining companies
Southern Bolivar Agricultural-Mining Federation (FEDEAGROMISBOL
), which Christian Peacemaker Teams has accompanied since 2006.
FEDEAGROMISBOL is a network of primarily subsistence small-scale miners and
peasant farmers throughout the San Lucas mountain range in the Southern
Bolívar region. Our partners in the organization say that the Colombian
government is trying to blame the small scale miners for financing the
illegal armed actors as a way of shutting their mining enterprises down so
the government can give all mining rights to large corporations.
Five of the world's ten largest gold mining companies
are based in Canada
and as the 2006 MacLean's magazine article,
New CIDA Code Provokes Controversy
, shows, the Canadian government is giving them as much help as possible to
do business in Colombia. The article uncovered how the Canadian International
Development Agency (CIDA) funded a process to change the Colombian mining
code, making it far more favorable to corporate mining interests. The new
code squeezes artisan miners out of the equation by making it nearly
impossible for them to meet standards that can only be completed by
large-scale and well-financed projects. And in October 2010, the Canadian
government voted down Bill C-300, a law that would have held Canadian mining
companies to higher environmental and human rights standards around the
/There are more than 200 illegal backhoes mining in southern Bolívar./
For years, large corporations have paid paramilitary death squads to protect
their business interests. A well-known example is the case of
, which paid paramilitary death squads linked to massacres and the
assassinations of union leaders. In 2006, Asad Ismi wrote,
Profiting From Repression: Canadian Firms in Colombia Protected by Military
, showing the links between Canadian gold companies and illegal armed groups.
During 1998, massacres committed by death squads drove 10,000 people from
southern Bolivar. The expelled miners accuse multinational mining companies
of funding the paramilitaries that removed them.
On 17 August 2011, dozens of heavily armed men in uniform identifying
themselves as the Black Eagles paramilitary group entered the town of Casa
Zinc in southern Bolivar where they detained, tortured and killed three
people and left a fourth person wounded. Just two weeks later, on 29
August, Canadian-owned Midasco Capital announced in
that they received mining licenses to excavate in the southern Bolivar
region, including the area around Casa Zinc. On 1 September 2011, unknown
assailants assassinated Father Jose Reinel Restrepo Idairraga. Father
Restrepo was parish priest in the community of Marmato who strongly opposed
Canadian-owned Medoro Resources’ open pit mining project. These events
are just two of many that show how large corporate projects benefit from
armed groups’ use of terror to quiet opposition.
So back to the original accusation by the Colombian government, who's most
likely to finance these groups—the small-scale miners who dig out gold in a
sustainable way to support their families or corporations who wish to extract
all the gold in the shortest possible time with the fewest possible
CPT's MISSION: What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline
and sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war? Christian
Peacemaker Teams (CPT) seeks to enlist the whole church in organized,
nonviolent alternatives to war and places teams of trained peacemakers in
regions of lethal conflict.
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