Colombian authorities reported that the illegal mining operation produced 23 kilograms (50.71 lb) per month.
According to authorities, the US-backed bilateral operation targeted the infrastructure of the transnational criminal group Familia del Norte, whose illicit gold mining dumped 114,000 grams of mercury and polluted 68 million liters (18 million gallons) of water each month.
The operation “became a source of financing for weapons and explosives, as well as the acquisition of chemical inputs by the criminal structure known as the Familia del Norte,” according to a press release from Colombia’s armed forces.
Brazil and Colombia are two of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with large swaths of their landmass covered by the Amazon rainforest, which scientists say is critical to slowing climate change due to the massive amounts of greenhouse gases it absorbs.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his Colombian counterpart Gustavo Petro have used their international platforms to advocate for Amazon protection, efforts to reduce deforestation, and debt-for-nature swaps.
On the Pure and Purete rivers in Colombia, 12 three-story vessels with engine rooms, sediment storage, and accommodation were destroyed. On their territory, Brazilian authorities destroyed seven of the same vessels.
“We are witnessing a historic bi-national operation against the illegal extraction of mineral deposits, aimed at protecting the lungs of the world,” said William Rene Salamanca, director of Colombia’s National Police in a statement.