HomeNewsAnalysisColombia Seizes Illegally Mined Tungsten Near Venezuela Border
ANALYSIS

Colombia Seizes Illegally Mined Tungsten Near Venezuela Border

COLOMBIA / 31 AUG 2012 BY EDWARD FOX EN

Colombia announced the seizure of 400 kilos of illegally mined tungsten in the east of the country, highlighting how its criminal groups are increasingly controlling illicit mining operations and have diversified into minerals other than the main earner, gold.

Colombia's Navy seized 400 kilograms of illegally mined tungsten ore on August 15 in the area of Caranacoa, Guainia province, near the Venezuelan border. The shipment was being transported along the Inirida river by two men.

According to the navy's press release, it was the second seizure of illegal tungsten this year in Colombia, after authorities confiscated more than 5 tons of the mineral in the neighboring province of Vichada in May.

No information was released on who may have been responsible for the illegal mining operation.

InSight Crime Analysis

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released a report in March detailing how Guainia and Vichada were hotspots for the illegal mining of coltan and tungsten, with guerrillas controlling the mining sites, paramilitaries controlling the trafficking routes, and drug traffickers moving the minerals out of the province. A ton of coltan can reportedly be sold illegally for some $500,000. Guerrilla groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) may be illegally extracting tungsten for use in the construction of projectile explosives, according to Santiago Martinez of the Universidad de los Andes.

Police told the ICIJ that one of the trafficking organizations involved in mining operations in Guainia was the Cifuentes Villa clan, an organization accused by the US of working with the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel as one of the groups' biggest suppliers of cocaine, as well as laundering money for them. The clan reportedly operated a mine near Puinawi National Park, one of the areas in the region with the highest concentration of illicit mining.

Guainia's state police commander also told the ICIJ that boats carrying illegally mined minerals regularly move back and forth between Colombia and Venezuela. Though Venezuela is a source of precious metals, some criminal groups, particularly the FARC, are believed to move coltan into Venezuela where a "regulatory vacuum" means that the trade is legal. This has allowed criminal gangs to step in and control the black market.

Colombia's criminal groups have experience in illegal mining operations, with many involved in the clandestine gold trade. The FARC are alleged to control many illegal mines in the country, charging fees for machinery used in mining operations. This can reach $1,600 per backhoe. The Rastrojos operate in a similar fashion, taxing miners around 10 percent of their daily profits.

The government has been making efforts to combat illegal mining in the last 12 months, including the creation in January of a special prosecutor's office to tackle environmental crime. However, it will likely have to do a great deal more to effectively combat the problem, which former police chief Oscar Naranjo said was the biggest challenge facing the country.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 18 MAR 2016

A new report that tracks the variables linked to drug seizures in Colombia's major cities could help inform the government's…

COLOMBIA / 22 MAR 2011

With an estimated 35,000 sexually exploited minors in Colombia, child prostitution is a widespread and lucrative industry. And, as symbolized…

COLOMBIA / 25 JUL 2011

Colombian authorities have confirmed that Angel de Jesus Pacheco, alias "Sebastian," a commander of drug gang the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…