When Chinas Zijin Mining paid 1 billion to buy an extensive gold mine in the Colombian Andes in late 2019, security risks were a top concern, despite an operation by the military which had beat back illegal miners.
The companys predeal jitters were warranted illegal extraction by wildcat miners in tunnels either within or adjoining its concession has shot up since the operations end. Thousands of illegal miners are now working in difficult, sometimesdeadly conditions in dozens of tunnels and about 150 clandestine processing locations in Buritica municipality, local government and a specialized antiillegal mining unit of the police told Reuters.
The tunnels are controlled by the Clan del Golfo crime gang, known locally as The Ten for the 10 cut they take off the illegal miners output. The Clan then buys remaining production, allowing miners to keep some gold or giving them cash or liquid mercury as payment.
The illicit operations pose a threat to the nearby community, which fears potential violence and the poisoning of the local watershed with mercury, used by the prospectors to separate out gold from mined dirt. They are also cutting into Zijins profits. Production at Zijins nearby mine is being seriously affected by the presence of the illegal miners, James Wang, chief executive of ZijinContinental Gold, told Reuters in a video interview from the mine in northwestern Colombia. Losses in the first quarter amounted to 20 of total production, Wang said. The company has…