US to assist Colombia in the development of its mining industry

Colombia’s President, Iván Duque, and the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. (Image courtesy of Colombia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy).

The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced that his office will launch a program to provide technical assistance for the development of Colombia’s mining industry. 

During a recent visit to the South American country, Pompeo said that the proposal will be coordinated by the Department of State’s Energy Governance and Capacity Initiative.   

“Look, we know this, Mr. President: When there is a safe, welcoming investment climate with good government, transparent rules, and an open and fair set of relationships, American and Colombian companies together do great work. They provide real jobs with real prosperity that lasts, and I know our two countries’ private sectors will keep this up,” Pompeo told President Iván Duque during a press conference held on Saturday at the Presidential Palace in Bogotá. 

The program will review the country’s legal and regulatory framework and propose ideas on how to make this framework a competitive one

According to the US official, the program will start by analyzing how the Colombian mining industry is faring in comparison to other countries in the region. Once this is done, it will review the country’s legal and regulatory framework and propose ideas on how to make this framework a competitive one.

In addition to this, the project will review current regulations around environmentally sustainable copper mining, with a special focus on best practices for the storage of mine tailings. 

Colombia has 33 mining and energy projects waiting to be kickstarted once the covid-19 pandemic is over. These projects are expected to generate over 50,000 jobs and bring over some $9.6 million in investments.

“The US Government is a strategic partner in our quest to boost the sustainable recovery of the energy and mining sectors through the implementation of the ‘America Grows’  initiative. We have been working with them through USAID to promote the formalization of artisanal miners and with the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs to fight against the illegal exploitation of our minerals,” Colombia’s Mining Minister, Diego Mesa, said in a media statement. “Now, we are grateful for this offer to provide technical assistance from the EGCI to tackle the technical, environmental, financial and legal challenges associated with the management of the mining sector.”

The USAID project Mesa referred to is called ‘Legal Gold’ and, besides bringing illegal miners into legality, it focuses on minimizing the use of mercury in gold recovery operations, as well as implementing zero-mercury technologies. 

When it comes to the fight against illegal mining, the Ministry of Mines and Energy also receives support through a previous agreement with the State Department that allows for the monitoring of land packages where there is evidence of alluvial gold exploitation. 

In parallel, the minister also reported that through the US Labor Department, Colombia receives assistance to eliminate child labour in the mining sector and improve working conditions in small-scale coal and gold mining operations.