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What is Legal? Formalising artisanal and small-scale mining in Colombia

Colombia’s mining sector is characterised by widespread informality, with two-thirds of all mining operations lacking any legal title. This not only prevents improvement in the working conditions and human rights of miners, but perpetuates environmental degradation and poor quality of life in mining communities. Yet government formalisation initiatives have had limited success to date.

This paper assesses these past formalisation processes, analysing the barriers to formalisation for artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) and offering approaches to overcome them. It highlights that a critical moment for Colombia’s mining sector as positive drivers align for change: the government’s 2013 formalisation 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 formalisation of ASM is a key component.

This publication forms part of IIED’s work to identify pathways towards inclusive and responsible mining.

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Ecavarria, C. (2014) What is legal? Formalising artisanal and small-scale mining in Colombia. IIED, London and Arm, Colombia.
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