Illegal mining and trafficking in precious metals negatively impact peace, stability, security, development, governance, the rule of law, the environment and the economy. Furthermore, illegal mining of precious metals is often accompanied by serious human rights abuses and it can have severe environmental impacts, including through deforestation, land degradation and pollution. Illegal mining and trafficking of precious metals are often linked to economic crimes such as tax evasion, fraud, and corruption, by exploiting loopholes in regulatory frameworks. Due to the high profits associated with precious metals, and the often-low risks of being arrested or prosecuted, organized criminal groups are exploiting this sector.
In 2019, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) adopted the Resolution 2019/23 titled Combating transnational organized crime and its links to illicit trafficking in precious metals and illegal mining, including by enhancing the security of supply chains of precious metals on the recommendation of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (E/2019/30). The resolution raised concerns about the growing involvement of organized criminal groups in illicit trafficking in precious metals and the substantial increase in the volume and range of transnational criminal offences associated with the trafficking of precious metals and illegal mining. It calls on States to increase cooperation, including by working with UNODC and other international organizations, to strengthen law enforcement and prosecutorial support, and make better use of data and technology. It strongly encourages States to make use of the provisions of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).
UNODC recognizes the need to enhance international cooperation, technical assistance and capacity building to address illegal mining and trafficking in precious metals and developed a response framework on illegal mining and the trafficking in precious metals. The Environment Team coordinates the UNODC response to these crimes, and works through the newly-created Inter-Divisional Task Team on Minerals Trafficking to leverage all available expertise across UNODC to offer a coherent technical assistance programme to support Member States. Furthermore, in partnership with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Customs Organization, the Environment Team co-hosts the Informal Law Enforcement Network meetings on Minerals Related Crimes. The Environment Team is currently developing a Diagnostic Toolkit to aid in assessing Member States’ challenges and needs with regards to illegal mining and trafficking in precious metals. The Diagnostic Toolkit is aimed at conducting rapid assessments of vulnerabilities along the gold supply chain and will be finalized in 2022.