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Colombian Gold Mining

Colombia is rich in mineral resources and the development and processing of these resources is an important economic activity that has helped build a competitive business sector. Colombia is recognized worldwide for its emeralds, and is also the fifth largest thermic coal exporter in the world. 

The country has great mining potential. The existence of diverse geological environments means that there is a wide variety of minerals and metals ripe for development:

  • Metals and precious stones – gold, silver, platinum, emeralds
  • Metallic – nickel, copper, iron, manganese, lead, zinc, titanium
  • Non-metallic – land salt, marine salt, gravel, sand, clay, limestone, sulphate sulphurs, baryta, bentonite, feldspar, fluorite, asbestos, magnesite, talcum, gypsum, phosphoric rock and ornamental rocks
  • Fuels – coal

The state, as owner of the subsoil resources in the Colombian territory, is responsible for overseeing and planning the best way to develop, use and manage these resources. The state no longer is actively involved in the business side of mining and instead fosters a policy whereby mining development is left 100 per cent to the private sector.

The Mining-Energy Planning Unit (Unidad de Planeación Minero-Energética or UPME), the official entity responsible for the development of the mining sector in Colombia, has formulated a strategic national mining plan which states that “in 2019 the Colombian mining activity will be one of the most important industries in the continent, and will have significantly enhanced its share of the national economy.”

Over the past decade Colombian mining activity has grown significantly in production volume and value, and exports. Consequently, its contribution to the Colombian economy has been substantial; it has even counterbalanced a drop in hydrocarbon production. The share of the mining GDP (% of total GDP) has grown from 1.8 per cent in 1996 to 2.7 per cent in 2005 thanks to the growing development of coal mining and, to a lesser degree, of precious metals and ferronickel mining. Foreign investors such as Drummond, BHP Billiton, Glencore, Amcoal and Rio Tinto, have undertaken large scale projects in Colombia.

Elements that will determine the future of the Colombian mining activity are:

  • Production capacity and reserves of currently operating mines.
  • Degree of success of projects still at the exploratory phase.
  • Likelihood of placing more mining production in the international market.
  • Competitiveness in terms of attracting new investments to the sector.

With regard to reserve volumes (with the exception of those established in general studies carried out by state entities and the ones relating to the mines run by large companies), a reliable consolidated figure is not readily available since, according to the degree of informality prevailing in the sector, only estimates with no significant technical verification are available.

Gold Mining Opportunities

Trading connections with Colombia are steadily increasing. Good commercial relations in the mining, energy and education sectors creates a long-term potential for investment in mining, agriculture and telecommunications.

The mining sector offers enormous business potential for both resource investors and exporters of mining equipment services and technology across all facets of the industry. Particular attention is being placed on the environmental and safety aspects of the industry as both of these components are lagging behind international standards when compared on a country-by-country basis.

The Colombian mining community is determined to develop a world class mining industry and this offers opportunities for American companies whose products and services have a technical and cost competitive advantage in:

  • Mineral exploration (geophysics, mapping, diamond drilling, tunneling)
  • Mining software (resource estimation, modeling, mine design and planning, maintenance and optimization)
  • Gold mining and processing technologies
  • Contract mining
  • Engineering services
  • Environmental equipment (water and sewage treatment plants, effluent analyzers, software)
  • Environmental consulting (remediation and mine closure)
  • Mine safety training and equipment
  • Mining equipment


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Over the past half century many governments have divested themselves of gold bullion that was accumulated over even longer periods of time. Ironically, gold that historically added stability to currencies was being actively divested in order to illustrate the instability of gold as a store of value.