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Colombia small-scale miners miss formalization deadline

Bnamericas Published: Friday, December 29, 2017

More than 110,000 Colombian small-scale miners missed a December 28 registration deadline, complicating the government's efforts to formalize the sector.

Just 19,000 of the country's estimated 133,000 informal miners known as barequeros registered for a RUT tax ID number, a requirement to be able to continue selling minerals, the energy and mines ministry (MinMinas) said in a statement.

Decree 1102 issued in June set a six-month transition period for miners to sign up to the Rucom traders registry at their respective municipalities, according to the ministry.

"The remaining 110,000 will be eliminated from trading if they don't comply with this requisite," deputy mining minister Carlos Cante said.

President Juan Manuel Santos, along with the leaders of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, is seeking to halt money laundering, deforestation and pollution of the Amazon jungle by formalizing hundreds of thousands of informal miners. The government has identified 7,000 mining operations in 16 departments, according to the ministry. Small-scale mining accounts for 70% of the operations in the country.

Colombia, Latin America's largest coal producer, produced 1.05Moz gold and 267,616oz silver through the first three quarters, according to the national mining agency (ANM).

Gold mineral trading has fallen to 18t so far this year from 40t a year earlier as a result of the government crackdown on the sector, the ministry said.

"This is proof that the measures taken to halt trading of illegally-produced minerals have produced results," Cante said.

Cante earlier awarded mining certifications to 164 small-scale miners in Antioquia department who completed the formalization process, as part of an accord with Toronto-based gold miner Continental Gold.

The company also inaugurated a training center for up to 120 people to learn alternative professions in the area, the ministry said in a separate statement. Continental is developing the Buriticá gold project in Antioquia.

Illegal mining operations, which are blamed for pollution, deforestation, money laundering, tax evasion and the modern slave trade, have spread across Latin America over the past decade, spurred by record gold prices which jumped sevenfold to US$1,900/oz by 2011, according to the Better Gold Initiative (BGI).

Andean region

In neighboring Bolivia, a court imprisoned five Chinese citizens and a Bolivian on charges of illegal gold mining in La Paz department, Santa Cruz-based newspaper El Mundo reported.

In Peru, a joint operation by police and the national parks agency (Sernanp) destroyed two illegal mining camps in a protected Amazon jungle area in Ucayali region. The agents destroyed a river gold dredge and arrested one of the miners in El Sira reserve, state-run Radio Nacional reported.

Peru's estimated 200,000 informal miners, who generate an estimated US$3bn in annual revenue, produced about 20% of the country's 145t of gold output in 2015, according to the energy and mines ministry (MEM). Tax authority Sunat has impounded at least 2t of illegally produced gold since 2011.

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