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Colombian workers reject illegal mining bill

posted by Esteban Refshauge
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The Confederation of Colombian Miners (CCM) has slammed a proposal by President Juan Manuel Santos to eliminate illegal mining, reported El Espectador Thursday.

“What concerns us is that the Government has not distinguished between informal mining, traditional and ancestral, and criminal groups that operate outside of the law,” explained Confederation President Ramiro Restrepo. However, “if the government draws this dividing line, we would be quiet”, Restrepo told the newspaper.

CCM, which represents small and medium-scale Colombian miners, appeared concerned that the government may inadvertently crack down on their operations in their efforts to disrupt criminal gangs.

“The president says he has prepared a bill that will allow it to destroy mining machinery in their fight against criminal mining and we are afraid that suddenly the police will not make the distinction and it will badly affect us. The core of the problem is the lack of definition. We do not want to be victims of these laws because of others,” said Restrepo.

For its part, the national government has claimed the new law would actually better define the crime. “One of the difficulties we have had is that the offense is poorly categorized,” president Santos said Wednesday.

The head of state noted that, “criminal mining…feeds the FARC, it feeds the ELN, it feeds the Bacrim.” BACRIM is government jargon for neo-paramilitary groups and other drug trafficking organizations.

While Restrepo and his colleagues have been, “slowly undermining the perception that we are sponsors of criminals and partners of armed groups outside the law,” he conceded that legitimate miners are often vulnerable to extortion attempts by criminal groups.

On the prospect of constructively reforming the mining law, Restrepo said, “I have my reservations… Criminal gangs are killing each other and killing many people and, in the meantime, the state is indolent.”

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