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Colombia: How peace could impact the FARC's role in illegal mining

Illegal mining is fast becoming a central resource for the FARC, overtaking coca production in some provinces. With the rising price of minerals there's an incentive to stay involved, even if peace is achieved.

By Geoffrey RamseyInSight Crime / October 29, 2012



InSight Crime researches, analyzes, and investigates organized crime in the Americas. Find all of Geoffrey Ramsey's research here.

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With the FARC seemingly deepening their involvement in illegal mining, InSight Crime takes a look at what could happen to the Colombian guerrilla group’s stake in the industry should the peace talks see success.

The first round of negotiations between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government in more than a decade officially began on Oct. 18. While many were taken aback by the FARC’s use of fiery rhetoric in a subsequent press conference, there is reason to believe that Colombia’s decades-long armed conflict can come to an end. As analyst Adam Isacson has pointed out, the guerrillas have so far participated in the talks “with seriousness and discipline,” demonstrating an encouraging commitment to the peace process.

But if the talks do go well, potentially resulting in the FARC’s demobilization, what will remain of the illicit finance networks is unclear. The group’s involvement in the drug trade is one of the five pillars up for discussion with the government, with Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon estimating earlier this week that the rebel group earns from $2.4 – $3.5 billion annually from the drug trade. But this is only one of many sources of funding for the rebels. As InSight Crime has reported, illegal mining – and gold mining in particular – is fast becoming a central resource for the FARC. Indeed, a study released in September by the Toledo International Center for Peace (CITpax) found that illegal gold mining had overtaken coca production as the main source of income for the FARC and other armed groups in eight of Colombia’s 32 provinces.

A recent investigation by El Colombiano supports this claim, finding that in the province of Antioquia, rebels charge the equivalent of between $1,600 and $2,750 for each piece of heavy equipment that illegal mining ventures bring in to their areas of control. On top of this, they also charge for the entrance of gasoline, and demand a 10 percent cut of all profits. As El Colombiano notes, this is somewhat ironic given that the head of the FARC’s negotiating team, Luciano Marin, alias “Ivan Marquez,” devoted much of his public remarks in the post-talk press conference to denouncing the “exploitative” practices of large scale mining companies in the country.

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