Perhaps best known for its emeralds and coffee, Colombia also has an extensive gold mining sector. Roughly 350,000 people work directly in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector, primarily in remote areas, and rely on it for their livelihood.
planetGOLD project sites in Colombia
Sixty-three percent of these mining operations are informal, meaning they lack a legal mining concession or title. Informality can leave mining groups vulnerable to organized crime groups that weave themselves into formal economic activities and launder illicit funds through the gold trade.
Despite a government ban on mercury use in mining in July 2018, the practice is still common in some regions including Antioquia, Choco, Sur de Bolívar, and Cauca—placing the country’s ASGM sector among the top emitters in the world. For each gram of gold produced with mercury in some areas of Colombia, as many as seven grams of the heavy metal are lost to the air, water, and mining waste—leading to serious health and environmental consequences.
Transforming ASGM in Colombia into a responsible sector has significant potential to contribute to sustainable poverty alleviation that benefits local communities while protecting the country’s biodiversity and the global environment more broadly. This transformation will depend on regulation and on supporting formalization, access to financing, and the adoption of more sustainable mining practices.
Key Figures from Colombia
87% of the country's gold is produced by informal miners
#2 ranked for biodiversity among all countries in the world
46% of the country's gold is produced by artisanal miners
350,000 people are employed in ASGM
The planetGOLD Colombia project is working to reduce and, where possible, eliminate mercury use in the ASGM sector by strengthening institutions and regulatory frameworks; increasing mining communities’ access to the financing needed to purchase mercury-free processing technologies; providing technical assistance, technology transfer and support for formalization; and raising awareness and disseminating lessons learned on phasing out mercury in the ASGM sector.
The planetGOLD Colombia project will support 11 ASGM municipalities to reduce mercury use by 20 tonnes over the course of the five-year project.
Support formalization of the ASGM sector
Help miners access financing for mercury-free technologies
Provide technical assistance and training on new technologies
Raise awareness and
Contact planetGOLD Colombia
The planetGOLD Colombia project is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Mines and Energy, in partnership with the Ministries of Environment and Health.
Juan Manuel Chavarría Quintero
Communications and Pedagogy Specialist