September 24th 2015

We are happy proud to present the Spanish version of the publication “What is Legal? Formalising artisanal and small-scale mining in Colombia” written by Cristina Echavarría. The publication that was previously launched in English, explores challenges and opportunities for the formalization of the artisanal and small-scale mining sector in Colombia and is a collaboration between the Alliance for Responsible Mining and International Institute for Environment and Development – IIED. Now the Spanish version is available thanks to the support of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF).

 About the publication:

Colombia’s mining sector is characterized by widespread informality. A recent census revealed that 72 per cent of all mining operations in Colombia are classed as ‘artisanal and small-scale mining’ (ASM), and 63 per cent are ‘informal’, lacking a legal mining concession or title. Large-scale mining (LSM) comprises only one per cent of operations. Over 340,000 Colombians depend directly on ASM and medium-scale mining (MSM) for their income. This informality deprives the state of important financial resources, while the current poor conditions (environmental, social, health and safety, labor, technical and trading) prevent the sector from delivering on important social objectives, such as generating formal employment and improving quality of life in mining communities.

This paper assesses these past formalization processes, analyzing the barriers to formalization for artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) and offering approaches to overcome them. It highlights that now is a critical moment for Colombia’s mining sector as positive drivers align for change: the government’s 2013 formalization policy; evolving relationships between ASM and large-scale mining; global drivers such as mercury elimination, conflict-free mineral sourcing and investment in traceable certified gold; and the peace negotiations currently underway to end more than 50 years of armed conflict, of which formalization of ASM is a key component.

About the author:

Cristina Echavarría has over 30 years of experience in grassroots community development, social research and administration of research programs in participatory natural resource management, with emphasis on the social, environmental and governance dimensions of the sustainable development of mineral rich regions. Cristina Echavarría is an independent researcher and advisor on mining and communities, artisanal and small-scale mining, and ethnic groups. She is a director of the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) and Chair of its Fairmined Standard Committee. She is also a Senior Fellow of the Institute of Regional Studies of the University of Antioquia (Colombia), an Industry Fellow at the Sustainable Minerals Institute, University of Queensland (Australia), and an independent member of the mining company BHP Billiton’s Forum on Corporate Responsibility.

She is currently working with WWF Colombia and the Afro-Colombian Organization for a Common Agenda to develop principals and standards for sustainable mining in Pacific region of Colombia.

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