Illegal mining costs Colombia 13 billion liters of water every year
Inspectors found mercury and cyanide and other toxins in water in rural areas of Bolivar, Cauca, Antioquia, Choco and Cordoba provinces, acting ombudsman Alfonso Cajiao told a press conference.
Water is likewise polluted by fuel that leaks from the dredging and excavation machines used by unlicensed miners, he said.
Cajiao also pointed to the role of illegal mining in deforestation, destroying 16,700 hectares (41,230 acres) a year of woodland.
In addition to the unlicensed miners, there are 350 mining outfits that operate under official concessions without environmental certification, the ombudsman's office found.
Illegal mining has a negative impact on the ecosystem, infringes on workers' rights, and enables "the strengthening of illegal armed groups" involved in the trade, Cajiao said.
Colombian authorities estimate revenues from illegal mining operations at 7 trillion pesos ($2.07 billion) a year ■