Colombian gold mining gangs pollute rivers, cut down forests

“Water sources have been diverted and contaminated by the dumping of tonnes of chemicals,” Palomino told reporters recently, adding that 4,000 hectares of rainforest in Choco have been cut down to make way for illegal mining.”

Rebel forces and criminal gangs in Colombia are cutting down rainforests and polluting rivers with toxic chemicals used to extract gold in illegal but lucrative mining operations, police authorities say.

Record gold prices and a government crackdown on cocaine trafficking have prompted the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and new criminal gangs linked to former far-right paramilitaries to seek new revenue sources and expand into illegal mining in recent years, the police say.

National police chief Rodolfo Palomino has said armed groups are using increasing amounts of mercury, cyanide and arsenic to extract gold in the remote western jungle province of Choco along the Pacific coast. Five grams of mercury are needed to extract one gram of gold, he said.


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