The properties that make gold a much sought after investment are also to blame for the heights people will go through to get gold out of the ground by whatever means necessary. This ignores the human and environmental plight that is often caused by such illegal gold mining. Last year we looked at the environmental disaster in Peru and today we learn about similar problems compounded by huge human suffering that is occurring in another Latin American country - Colombia. The many Colombian rebel groups and gangs are giving up on drugs as a funding source for their causes and are switching to mining for precious metals like gold. The country is rich in natural resources and now old abandoned mines, small production mines and areas surrounding them are attracting droves of these criminal elements. Bloomberg reports that:
"Long known for the cocaine trade and kidnappings, Colombian rebel groups and criminal gangs have turned from drug sales to illegal gold mines to fund their activities. Those mines are increasingly responsible for driving people out of their homes. Colombia has the second-largest number of displaced persons worldwide, just behind Syria, according to the United Nations."
"The rebels and gangs, who operate in large swathes of the country, are pushing villagers out of areas with promising mineral profiles, taking over small-scale local mines or warring over who will control areas with the most promise for gold. Residents are caught in the crossfire. About 200,000 Colombians were driven from their homes in 2013, the latest year for which data is available, Consultoria para los Derechos Humanos & el Desplazamiento, a Colombia-based human-rights group, said last month. "
Unlike cocaine or heroin, gold is indistinguishable and can be stored, transported and sold without raising much suspicion about its true source. This along with its intrinsic value is what continues to attract the Colombian gangs to its illegal mining and trade.