Stakeholder engagement, stakeholders meetings, and desktop analysis

Brief description of the project

The project supports the implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury by reducing the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, with the aim of reducing mercury use through promising technologies for alternative gold extraction techniques gold from tailings and final tailings; demonstrating proven methods of mercury-free processing of raw minerals and waste reprocessing that can economically compete with the use of mercury.

The technological system will also remediate contaminated waste in order to reduce mercury and minimize the impact on human health and the environment in mining areas, mitigating, improving and seeking alternatives to the impacts on human health and the environment too an ever-increasing escalation. In addition, training will be carried out to educate miners, their families and local authorities, which focus on eliminating the most intensive use of mercury in Colombia and the waste they produce in mining practice underground and/or alluvial at the time of gold release.

For this stage of the project, the selected locations are in the provinces of Cauca and Bolívar, where artisanal and open-pit mining practices have been present for decades, allowing both types of mining and their waste to be addressed.

The project will implement proven technologies, with the aim of improving gold recovery in relation to the use of mercury in an economically viable way for the artisanal miner.

These technologies have already been the subject of important developments and tests with ASM miners, are very relevant to the Colombian context and are ready to be applied in Colombia.

Community brief 

Mining activity in the provinces of Bolívar and Cauca (Colombia) has been carried out for decades, being an important part of the economic life of the regions, providing a vital livelihood for a large part of the local population. This phenomenon, rooted in the idiosyncrasy of the area, has consolidated mining as a fundamental economic practice, providing employment and subsistence opportunities to those who call these municipalities of the country home.

This report shows the general characteristics of these provinces, highlighting their geographical and demographic importance. Likewise, the social and cultural dynamics that have influenced the development and sustainability of mining activity in the region are addressed.

The province of Bolívar is located in northern Colombia, bordered to the north and west by the Caribbean Sea. Its capital is Cartagena de Indias, a historical and tourist city that has played a significant role in the history of Colombia and Latin America in general. Bolívar borders to the east with the province of Cesar, to the southeast with the province of Sucre, and to the south with the province of Córdoba.

Figure 1: Gold separation processes in the province of Bolívar

Bolívar's strategic location, with its access to the Caribbean Sea, has influenced the history of the region and, therefore, economic activities, including mining. This traditional approach to artisanal mining highlights the deep connection between local communities and their natural resources, although it also poses challenges in terms of sustainability and environmental management.

Mining in southern Bolívar, Colombia, is an economic activity that currently stands out for its abundance of mineral resources, mainly gold, but also other valuable minerals such as platinum, iron and coal.

The province of Cauca is located in the southwest of Colombia, bordering to the north with the provinces of Valle del Cauca and Tolima, to the east with Huila and Caquetá, to the south with Nariño and to the west with the Pacific Ocean. Its capital is the city of Popayán. Located in the southwest of Colombia and is known for its geographical and cultural diversity. Artisanal mining plays an important role in the economic life of this region. Entire communities depend on this activity as a means of subsistence, generating employment and economic opportunities in an environment where traditional methods of mineral extraction are common.

Figure 2: Gold separation processes in the province of Cauca

It is known for its natural resources, including mineral deposits. Mining, both at an industrial and artisanal level, has been a relevant activity in the region's economy. Cauca's strategic location, which includes an exit to the Pacific Ocean, has influenced its historical development and interaction with various cultures over time.

The topography of the province is diverse, ranging from valleys and mountains to coastal areas. The presence of the Cauca River, which crosses much of the province, contributes to the fertility of its lands and the availability of water resources. The region has a rich ethnic and cultural diversity, with indigenous and Afro-descendant communities that have influenced the identity of the province.

What is the AGC currently working on?

Since the beginning of project implementation in Colombia since 2019, one of the main objectives of the AGC has been to provide economic, environmental and other benefits to the ASGM communities involved. This is how the current USDoS project, which began in 2023, has involved the Las Lobas community (San Martín de Loba and Barranco de Loba) supporting the formalization process and the professional approach in the ASGM sector in Colombia.

Communication with Provinces

Currently, the technical team has been having contacts with various artisanal miners in the province of Bolívar and Cauca in which they are presented with an invitation for the project being developed in Colombia, focused on reducing the use of mercury in gold mining, especially in the regions of Cauca and Bolívar in whh we seek to exhibit profitable and mobile technological alternatives for the extraction of gold without mercury, applicable in both underground and alluvial mining. Our system effectively removes mercury from waste, minimizing risks and costs. The initiative includes training for miners and the promotion of policies supported by successful experiences, with the aim of mitigating impacts on health and the environment.

The presentation was developed with the following items:

  • Project objectives
  • General Regulatory Framework
  • The Minamata agreement, agreed in 2013 and in force since 2017
  • Program Strategies
  • Illicit extraction of minerals in Colombia, Ethnic Communities and areas of environmental importance
  • Comparison of mercury imports in South America
  • ASGM in Cauca

Stakeholder engagement and desktop analysis - Stakeholder meetings

Within the framework of the project development, a visit was carried out to the capital of Colombia, Bogotá, with the purpose of presenting the project objectives to the technicians of the relevant ministries. During the visit, interaction with the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Mines and Energy was prioritized to align the orientation of the project and share its purpose.

Figure 3. Ministry of Mines and Energy

Figure 4. Ministry of Environment

In topics that were developed of an important nature for the project are:

  • The ministries for the coming year aim to focus on critical aspects related to the formalization and legal compliance of artisanal mining operations. One of the fundamental activities is the active search for legal protection to support artisanal miners in their regularization process. It is planned to carry out an exhaustive analysis of various works that seek to be legalized, considering that the relevant ministries are distributed in each department and have designated leaders to manage these processes at the local level.
  • The primary objectives are oriented towards the formalization of mining activities, with a particular focus on the promotion of good practices in the field of artisanal mining without using mercury since the law prohibits it in the country.
  • To achieve this purpose, close collaboration has been established with the ministries and the developing project, who will play a key role in the implementation of training and education programs aimed at artisanal miners.
  • It is important to highlight that appointments are planned to be scheduled at the beginning of the year to facilitate direct contact and mutual interaction between all parties involved. In terms of coordination, the aim is to achieve effective synergy through the articulation of the material to be used in the formalization processes. This involves the creation of shared protocols and standards that guarantee efficient and uniform management in all phases of the project. This coordination is expected to contribute significantly to the coherence and effectiveness of the formalization process.
  • In the initial meetings next year, the proposed technologies for implementation in the context of artisanal mining will be presented to the ministries. This step is crucial as the adoption of appropriate technologies can improve operational efficiency, security and regulatory compliance in these operations. Detailed presentation of these technologies will provide ministries with a clear view of the resources required and enable informed decision-making.


The visits carried out in the province of Bolívar were located in the Lobas sector in which the municipalities of San Martin de Loba, Barranco de Loba and Hatillo de Loba are located, taking in 14 mining communities and one mining area:

  • Mining community: Mining in which actions such as exploitation and benefit are found.
  • Mining Area: Sector in which only artisanal benefit is presented.

The work areas of artisanal miners that were visited are located in the municipalities of Hatillo de Loba, San Martin and Barranco de Lobas, characterized by sectors with names such as: Ricardo, Guacharacos, Blessing of God, Cancha de Futbol, La Y, La Pantera, Barbacoas, Chinos, among others with the objective of visiting their workplaces and the benefit process, in addition to the above, the project for the initiation of contacts with this mining community is presented, in which several analyzes and hypotheses are presented. what they intend and whether they agree to participate in it.

The routes to access the municipalities of Hatillo de Loba, Barranco de Loba and San Martin de Loba are by land to El Banco, then you take a ferry across the Magdalena River to reach your destination.

Figure 5. Location of the Magdalena Bank, Hatillo de Loba, Barranco de Loba

Source: Google Earth

Figure 6. Transportation by El Banco ferry to San Martin de Loba (Bolívar)

Own source

In the field trips carried out between the dates of January 25 to February 1, 2024, several artisanal areas were identified in which there are approximately 8 to 12 miners per area for which contact is made with the artisanal miners, providing all the information on the project that is being executed for the departments of Bolívar and Cauca, seeking in this way that they provide us with their point of view, if they agree to be part of the project and their arguments that are proposed for each of the sites.

On January 25, 2024, Artisanal Gold professionals went to the sector of the municipality of Hatillo de Loba in the morning. Finding a group of miners working underground in the western part of the municipal seat, near the cemetery. In this meeting, we were assisted by four people, since the others continued with their daily work.

This mining site has been in operation for approximately a year of work, from which 10 families benefit directly and others indirectly. To extract the material, miners use minor tools such as picks, shovels, and pans. In addition, artisanal blasting is carried out to access resources. During the visit they also informed us that the benefit processes are carried out in the municipality of San Martin de Lobas, in the Los Cocos sector, where the benefit is carried out with mercury and cyanidation.


The visits carried out at this time in the province of Cauca were located in the Tambo – Fondas area, with the purpose of contacting at least 10 mining communities.

Site selection

To date, work is being done on the consolidation of 14 AGC databases to select a site where the pilot process would begin with the teams from Sur de Bolívar.