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Mining projects will come if Colombia solves bottlenecks - vice minister

11/17/2021 | 01:09pm EST

MEDELLIN, Colombia, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Colombia will easily attract major mining investment by solving licensing and regulatory bottlenecks and dealing with security issues comprehensively, the vice minister of mines said on Wednesday.

Colombia has long sought to tap its gold, copper and other mineral deposits, especially with the bleak outlook for coal. But potential investors regularly face licensing problems which delay projects or security issues which affect production.

The government is working to speed permissioning to ensure exploration leads to successful production, Vice Minister of Mines Sandra Sandoval said on the sidelines of the Colombia Gold Symposium in Medellin.

"The best way to promote investment is with concrete and demonstrative actions. If we are able to move today's projects ahead and be successful in consolidating their exploration processes and confirming we have the potential ... investment will come by itself."

The country had previously not properly supported nascent exploration projects, she said.

"For us it was exploitation, exploitation and we never did the work to identify who was in Colombia and carry out an accompaniment process so they can move ahead."

Solving security issues requires a comprehensive approach, she said, including legalizing informal miners and cracking down on illegal supply chains.

"Security forces go and get the exploitation, they burn the machinery, they take people to jail. ... But it's such a good business that someone else will come," she said.

"We also need to control the profit, who processes it, the transport."

China's Zijin Mining has said production at its $1 billion Buritica project is being seriously affected by illegal miners who sell gold to the Clan del Golfo crime gang.

"With Zijin we are accompanying them, but with a comprehensive vision of the fight against illegal exploitation," Sandoval said.

Some 40% of Colombia's gold output comes from subsistence miners, about 30% from major producers, and the rest from miners in the process of formalizing.

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Richard Chang)

ę Reuters 2021
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