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Crackdowns on illegal mining in Colombian Amazon not enough

25 / 10 / 2017, Mongabaycom News

PUERTO LEGUIZAMO, Colombia – Already infamous for coca production and conflict, Colombia’s southwest department of Putumayo borders Ecuador and Peru and is ripe for a variety of eco-crimes.  In 2016 there were 45 arrests in the region connected to wildlife smuggling, gold mining and the illegal timber trade. These crimes pose serious threats to local biodiversity in the Colombian Amazon and its native populations, especially given the fact that Putumayo is home to enormous expanses of jungle that are difficult to monitor. Colombia’s armed forces have made progress in the fight against illegal mining through a series of crackdowns. Part of that success is due to the fact that the Naval Forces of Southern Colombia now have more time to combat environmental crimes now that the country’s largest guerrilla group, the FARC, which was recently demobilized. But eco-crimes are not easily eliminated in the Amazon and illegal armed groups continue to traverse the jungles. Increased operations against illegal mining, in particular, have only diminished – but not eliminated – the problem. Illegal gold mining has gravely impacted Amazonian ecosystems given that immense territories under rebel command were difficult for Colombia’s armed forces to control. Times have changed, though, according to the Navy. Jungle areas have become easier for armed forces to monitor owing to the recent peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas. Enforcement and consequences The Navy’s destruction of illegal mining equipment in its operations has impacted the local economy in the town of Puerto Leguizamo, according to residents. Locals…

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