In the day in which we celebrate the work, we must remember how many in the world continue to be forced to perform activities that are humiliating, harmful to the health and underpaid. As the thousands of people employed in the illegal gold mining in Latin America.
Preferred to drugs
It is difficult to bring the word “gold” close to something negative, and instead today that market brings more profit than drugs, and exploits human beings. The last search report “Organized Crime and Illegally Mined Gold in Latin America” of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, demonstrates how in some countries in South America the noble metal is now more important for organised crime than the narcotics.
In Peru and Colombia for example – the largest producers of cocaine in the world – the value of illegal exports of gold now exceeds the value of the exports of cocaine. Illegal mining is in fact today the easiest and most profitable way to recycle money ever used in the history of Colombia drug trafficking.
In the first decade of the XXI century – one reads in the report – two tendencies intersected: the increase of the prices of gold have considerably increased the profitability of the extraction, while the United States led the “war on drugs”, in particular in Colombia and Mexico (“Plan Colombia” and “Initiative Merida”), which has significantly reduced the profitability of drug trafficking from Latin America to the USA.
Consequently, the criminal groups that control drug trafficking passed to the business of gold, and the fragmented nature of the artisanal extraction in Latin America has greatly facilitated their entry into the business. These groups quickly realized that taking control of the mines far from the attention of the Government, meant managing firms working in the field and generating higher profit margins, with a much lower risk.
Even if gold world prices gradually decreased in recent years, organised criminal groups continued to guide the expansion of the illegal mining sector: about 28% of the gold extracted in Peru, 30% in Bolivia, 77% in Ecuador, 80% of the gold extracted in Colombia and the 80-90% of the Venezuelan gold is produced illegally.
The illegal mining activity employs hundreds of thousands of workers throughout Latin America, many of whom are victims of work exploitation; and behind this world also hides the traffic in human beings. Slavery therefore still exists, only that it is ignored by the governments and is invisible to the cameras. Terror is not a global, but only affects those who are taken and forced to work in the extraction of the precious metal, therefore invisible.
And if the legal mining, usually linked to large multinational corporations, is one of the most destructive activities in the world because it destroys the soil and the environment, pollutes the waters and obliges the Community to abandon their land, the illegal one has the same effects, however multiplied.
Between 2001 and 2013 168,000 hectares of forest were killed and Colombia lost between 2000 and 2015, 5% of its forests. In the state of Madre de Dios in south-east Peru, the study of the Global Initiative has reported that illegal gold mining destroys every day from 5 to 10 hectares of protected rainforest.
The construction of the Interoceanic Highway that connects the east coast and the west coast of Latin America passing through Brazil and Peru destroyed the Amazonian forest and is facilitating the expansion of informal and illegal mining because the access to new areas becomes easier for workers.
The age of the blood
The new golden age has nothing to do with the Greek mythology – which imagined a time of prosperity and abundance, where humans lived without need for laws, nor had the need to cultivate the land because every kind of plant grew spontaneously, nor to build ships to search for other lands; and it has nothing to do either with the charming “rush” which characterized the United States of America in the nineteenth century. Today behind the most precious metal there is blood and pain, destruction and illegal business. It does not dirt like oil, it does not kills like drugs, but it is equally devastating.