Foreign direct investment in Colombia's mining sector grew 21 percent in the first nine months of 2013 from the same period of 2012, President Juan Manuel Santos said.

"We're talking about more than $2.3 billion" in investment between January and September of last year, according to the president, who said the flow of FDI to the sector remained strong despite a drop in global metal prices in recent years.

"Our goal is to keep promoting a reliable climate for responsible and sustainable mining activity," Santos said Thursday at the inauguration of a mining conference in the Caribbean city of Cartagena.

The president also vowed to continue to combat illegal mining outfits, saying they harm the environment, do not pay taxes or royalties, provide no retirement benefits for their workers, and do not invest in the communities where they operate.

Last July, miners staged a nationwide strike to protest government measures to crack down on illegal mining operations. EFE