Nigel Inkster: Discussing illegal mining in Latin America


By Nigel Inkster, Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk

The IISS Cartagena Dialogue is an exercise designed to bring together the members of the Pacific aAlliance, an economically liberal free-trade oriented bloc of Latin American states, together with the major states of the Asia-Pacific region. As such it seeks to identify commonalities and one such, the subject of illegal mining, will be covered in the special session that I will be chairing.

The commodities boom witnessed over the past decade has heralded an equally large boom in the phenomenon of illegal mining. When people talk about illegal mining, the assumption is that they are talking about small-scale operations with marginal local impact. But in parts of Latin America and Asia, such mining often takes place on a very large scale and has significant detrimental impacts. The fact that it is unregulated means the illegal mining industry observes none of the standards that should apply in the legal mining sector. The result is environmental degradation on a massive scale – deforestation, water and soil pollution, and high levels of toxicity from lead and mercury; the widespread use of child and slave labour; and the extensive involvement of criminal entities and insurgent groups. For example it is estimated that Colombia’s main insurgent groups FARC and ELN derive as much if not more revenue from illegal mining than they do from their traditional mainstay of narcotics trafficking.

Managing this problem is a complex domestic and international challenge. In the course of a weekend I don’t expect us to come up with comprehensive solutions. But there are grounds for hoping that the IISS Cartagena Dialogue will generate a wider awareness and understanding of the issues involved and help to generate some of the connections and relationships that will be needed to address the problem. A collaborative approach involving both producer and consumer countries will be needed – and many of the major ones will be represented at Cartagena. Watch this space.

This post is part of our content accompanying the IISS Cartagena Dialogue: Trans-Pacific Summit, which runs from 6-8 March 2015 in Colombia. You can follow the latest mentions of the Dialogue, or contribute your own, on Twitter via #IISSCartagena. Inquiries can be sent to

Diana Quintero: Colombia – a bridge between Asia and Latin America

Cartagena Dialogue

Guest post by Diana Quintero, Vice Minister for Strategy and Planning, Ministry of National Defense, Colombia

Little is known about the Cartagena Dialogue – and I am not referring to a historical treaty signed in our beautiful walled city. Instead, I am referring to a new meeting point for leaders of Asian countries (such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia) and countries of the region (such as Chile, Peru, Panama, and Mexico) that will be coming together for the first time to establish a strategic dialogue on global trends in defense, security, and economics. Government leaders, academics and business people will participate in the dialogue, creating a bridge linking Asia with Latin America, as well as connecting Latin American countries among themselves.

A robust economy, reduction in poverty and unemployment, and the real possibility of finding an end to the armed conflict make Colombia a benchmark for the region and in the world. This is unquestionably thanks to the sacrifice of our soldiers and police – they are true architects of peace.

No country at peace can go without strong and modern armed forces. To offer assurance and security, law enforcement must be strengthened. It is the only way to create the right setting for a nation’s prosperity and sustainable development.

In the last decade, Colombia has been hailed by the international community for the progress it has made in matters of security. These results are due, primarily, to the increase in foot soldiers and the acquisition and modernisation of equipment, which have allowed an increased use of technology and greater effectiveness when protecting the Colombian people.

There can certainly be no better investment than that made in security. In fact, while the world at large discusses how to best resolve diverse conflicts, Colombia emerges as a great example in negotiated solutions.

The trust Colombia has built and our potential as a global actor make events like the IISS Cartagena Dialogue possible. This is an opportunity to share our success stories across multiple fronts. From 6–8 March, global leaders from the fields of business, politics, and academia will come together for strategic discussions in which Colombia will stand out as a central player in the fight against transnational crime and the reduction of social inequalities, building bridges that allow our nation to share its experience and capacity with the rest of the world.

This post is part of our content accompanying the IISS Cartagena Dialogue: Trans-Pacific Summit, which runs from 6-8 March 2015 in Colombia. You can follow the latest mentions of the Dialogue, or contribute your own, on Twitter via #IISSCartagena. Inquiries can be sent to


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