January it was reported how a laptop captured from left wing rebels FARC by the Colombian government had contained information about how the group had started business in gold mining. (Colombia Reports / 'FARC use illegal mining to finance war')
Last week The New York Times published In Colombia, New Gold Rush Fuels Old Conflict with more details. It turns out it's not just FARC but multiple sides in the conflict that are turning their eyes on gold as cocaine becomes harder and harder to produce while more gold mines are located and gold prices are up. Paramilitaries related to right, left or apolitical outlaw groups launder the profits through, for example, cattle ranching.
One city, Antioquia, has the highest mercury pollution levels found anywhere according to one United Nations investigation. Lawless miners use the liquid form of the toxic heavy metal without restraint or concern and an estimated 67 tons are released every year. About 30,000 miners take part in the gold rush, shrugging at the danger of working in waters thick with mercury.
"All I can say is that he who has the gun gives the orders."
- miner in Anorí, Octaviano Hernández