Colombia-11 on Flickr.
Children playing in the mining town of Zaragoza, where illegal mining persists even after a crackdown.
See the entire episode on YouTube.
Gold fever is sweeping across South America. Nowhere is it more lethal than in Colombia, where the gold rush has become a new axle in Colombia’s civil war. Turf wars are erupting between paramilitaries, and leftist rebel groups fighting to take control of mining regions. It’s fueling an old ideological conflict and has displacing hundreds of people.
Helicopter raids by the Colombian Army on small community mining collectives have become commonplace, and the Colombian government is accused of targeting poor workers to protect big business interests, and operating with impunity from human rights violations.
Thousands have fled their homes where land is violently contested, and others live in fear they’ll be removed from their land, arrested, or killed.
The multinationals are flooding in too. With gold now worth around $1,500 an ounce, everyone is getting in on the act, including North American mining companies. Colombia’s pro-business mentality has seen arbitrary concessions by the state sold to multinational companies, often on indigenous land.
Fault Lines traveled to Colombia to speak to the people caught in the middle. The rural workers and artisan miners who’ve mined for generations, and some whose ancestors were enslaved during the first gold rush centuries ago. Others are former coca farmers, put out of work by the US-led Plan Colombia.
First aired: Monday, July 4, 2011 2230 GMT on Al Jazeera English.