Cartagena, 16 June 2023. Gold, iron, copper, tin… On one hand, the abundance in minerals and metals in Latin America constitutes a significant source of revenue for many countries in the region. But on the other hand, the illegal exploitation and trafficking of these resources, including in protected areas, undermines security and the rule of law while causing serious harms to the environment and human rights.
The international gold trade is allegedly particularly affected. Indeed, looking at the data between exporting countries such as those in Latin America and importing ones in other regions, the discrepancies suggest that the biggest share of the international gold trade is illegal, thus constituting significant loss of resources for gold producing countries while benefiting organized criminal groups.
In response, adopting or amending national legislations is critical to ensure illegal mining and trafficking in metals and minerals are considered serious crimes in appropriate cases and ensure relevant criminal law provisions can be used to combat such crimes. In this context, UNODC has recently published a Legislative Guide on Combating Illegal Mining and Trafficking in Metals and Minerals, a technical tool aimed at supporting countries in using the Organized Crime Convention to combat these crimes.
The Guide was presented this week in Cartagena, Colombia at a regional workshop organized by the UNODC Global Programme on Implementing the Organized Crime Convention in cooperation with the Global Programme on Crimes that Affect the Environment, with the financial support of the governments of France and the United States. The workshop saw the participation of 27 representatives from relevant ministries of ten countries in the region, namely Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, France (French Guiana), Guyana, Mexico, Peru, Paraguay and Suriname, and experts from regional and international organizations including the Andean Parliament, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), Organization of American States (OAS), United National Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The workshop allowed for a fruitful discussion on ways to strengthen national legislation on illegal mining and trafficking in metals and minerals, including identifying gaps in legislation, development of relevant new legislation in the region, strengthening of international cooperation and the role of international and regional organizations in combating illegal mining and trafficking in metals and minerals.
Opening the event, Ms. Candice Welsch, UNODC Regional Representative for the Andean Region and the Southern Cone (ROCOL) highlighted that the “UNODC legislative good practice guide is specifically designed to support States in strengthening national legislations by providing model provisions focused on the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, in order to adopt a balanced, proportionate and efficient legal framework.”
Mr. Ronny Aloema, Member of the Parliament of Suriname who attended the event, stressed the importance of establishing legal frameworks to counter illegal mining and of strengthening international cooperation with neighbouring countries. “In Suriname, there is no legal notion of illegal or legal gold mining. There is no prosecution or penalties implemented in Suriname as yet,” he emphasized.
The Legislative Guide has been developed thanks to the financial support of France, with complementary funding of the United States. It is currently available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and will soon be translated into French.