Post-Conflict Transformation of ASM through Education, Organization and Consultation in Colombia



Focus Area

Inclusive Growth and Community Engagement





sustainable development goals




Global Affairs Canada

Who Benefits

Mining Communities (Bebara and Bebarama Rivers in the Choco Region)


Delivery Partners

  • Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible / Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development
  • Mining Communities (Bebara and Bebarama Rivers in the Choco Region)

The Challenge

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) in Colombia has a long history significantly shaped by conflict. An estimated 340,000 Colombians – both directly and indirectly – depend upon the sector, which when left unmanaged may serve as a financial instrument for armed groups and civil conflict. Mining activities in Chocó, Colombia’s second-largest gold producing region, have failed to tangibly benefit the local people due to a lack of formality, control, and surveillance, which invites corruption and creates barriers for equitable benefit sharing.

It is believed that a peaceful and collaborative transition of control of ASGM activities is key to addressing the environmental degradation arising from the sector’s informality. In Choco, it is estimated that 97% of all small-scale gold mines operate without environmental permits, leading to deforestation, biodiversity loss, chemical contamination, and river siltation. While governance reforms over the last 25 years have striven to improve the socioeconomic benefits and minimize the environmental risks of artisanal mining, the potential impacts of regulatory and political reforms have not been fully realized. The development of the ASGM sector in Colombia represents an opportunity to not only to lower poverty but also safeguard environmental resources and strengthen post-conflict consultation.

CIRDI's Approach

In collaboration with national government institutions, local authorities, and FARC leadership this project aimed to address issues impeding the formalization and long-term viability of the sector for miners and vulnerable populations, including Afro-Colombian miners. In particular, the project increased beneficiary access to geologic information, enhanced understanding of ASGM livelihoods and resource issues regarding ancestral mining activities, and helped regulators make informed decisions regarding land-use in former conflict zones. The project prepared ASGM practitioners to increase women’s participation in decision-making and provide local training in improved prospecting, extraction, and processing techniques to reduce environmental impacts and enhance profits.

Cross-Cutting Themes


  • CIRDI has been explicit in its feminist approach with all project stakeholders, which ensured local consideration of needs for women’s well-being and economic empowerment. As project activities were defined and refined with community representatives, special attention and consideration were given to women leaders and miners and their expressed interests. Because 70% of gold panners in the target community were women, extra effort was made to include recommendations for improved exploration and recovery for the panners (not only for organized mining groups). Additionally, since CIRDI’s project was tied to the community’s efforts to create “community businesses”, CIRDI probed community leaders to consider the unique roles and needs of women in the building of a business (e.g., women are highly involved in accounting activities within the mining cycle).


  • CIRDI signed an MOU with the Ministry of the Environment as the main project partner, meaning that environmental stewardship will remain a central tenant of all project activities and objectives. Furthermore, in the design phase of the project, there was clear and strong demand from the community partners for activities that will reduce environmental impact. Key project objectives were determined to be the improvement of techniques for alluvial gold prospecting/exploration and recovery. 


  • CIRDI believes that ensuring strong communication and collaboration across stakeholders is an important pilot strategy for enabling the process of transition and formalization. Thus, the project took a participatory approach, requiring collaboration between the national government and local communities, and within local communities. CIRDI worked to ensure better communication and internal agreement on project activities between government, donors, universities, and local communities.

Project Results

  1.  CIRDI’s project increased communication between communities of the Medio Atrato by emphasizing internal agreement for project activities. In this manner, the project contributed to a community development plan for the communities of the Atrato River (Bebarama and Bebara).
  2.  Produced the technical report “Improvement of geological exploration and gold recovery from gold alluvium carried out by the black communities of the Bebará and Bebaramá river basins, Medio Atrato (Beté), Chocó, Colombia,” which was finalized and distributed to multiple stakeholders in April 2018. This report was elaborated by 11 members of the Rio Bebara and Rio Bebarama communities and 6 CIRDI representatives, and disseminated among the government partners. According to feedback from the 13 160 recipients, this report increased their access to information on observations and recommendations for improved exploration and processing practice for alluvial mining in the Choco.
  3.  Supported the dialogue between the mining associations, civil society, and community representatives. Government institutions participated in more than ten meetings and round tables to inform the project implementation strategy and to discuss extractive sector policies, regulatory frameworks as well as gender-sensitive and sustainable extractive sector leading practices. In 2016 CIRDI signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Environment.


Project Impact

  • Improved knowledge of livelihood and resource issues related to gold mining for vulnerable populations (i.e. Afro-Colombian, Indigenous Peoples, and women) through research and open dialogue.
  • Improved access to geologic information used to inform environmentally sustainable mineral exploration and mine management practices in protected areas through the delivery of technical and vocational training and dissemination of information obtained from mineral and environmental assessments.
  • Improved the willingness of stakeholders to engage (particularly vulnerable populations) in participatory decision-making processes that facilitate formalization and regulation of the ASGM sector by opening up the dialogue on ASGM policy and regulatory instruments.
  • Strengthened the processes for engagement and dialogue between government, miners, and communities on mineral resource governance and geologic information through the development of a road-map to formalization.

project team

updates and news

CIRDI Completes First Technical Mission to Chocó, Colombia

  Following two previous missions for consultation with government and community to identify technical assistance needs, CIRDI recently completed its first technical field mission to Bebara and Bebarama  (January 24th […]

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