October 10, 2014
Illegal Tungsten Mines and FARC
A little known fact is that illegal mining has over taken importance in funding over kidnaping for the terrorist group FARC. They have being using this mineral and Coltan to help fund their Fifty year civil war. Is this something American’s should be proud to support? Well it is being supported every day, when you buy phones, computers, pens, and BMW/ Ferrari/ Volkswagen, you support FARC’s cause. This is something that needs to change; we should not support heinous crimes such as the ones committed by these people. It is time that we find a cleaner source for our materials.
FARC started as a gorilla group that went by the name of the Southern bloc. Something that not many people know is that the Southern bloc, now known as FARC, was formed from a group called Marulanda’s Marquetalia Republic. On May 27 1964 the conservative government attacked this group’s military encampment capturing most of the insurgents. Marulanda and a small group of followers managed to escape capture. They formed the Southern Bloc, which was to be renamed FARC, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. This Guerilla group has used drug trafficking, extortion, kidnapping and illegal mining.
Groups such as FARC aren’t the only people who have used tyranny and violence on the people of Colombia. Drug Cartels run much of the country paying of high officials to keep their mouths shut so that they can move cocaine and other illegal substances into the world market. Then Colombia has the corrupt positions that have lied to and repressed the populace of this part of the world. Many of the political parties in Colombia were formed from Para-military groups that were at one point literally fighting each other over control of this country. “The uprising spreads throughout the country, igniting a decade-long civil war between the Liberals and the Conservatives known simply as La Violencia, or the Violence.” (Leach IV)
FARC was originally a communist army for the people against their government, but over the last few decades this group has done more harm to its people then it has done good. This Terrorist organization uses land mines to protect certain areas of their operations, primarily around their coca fields and these mines have claimed around 10,000 victims. This group has participated in peace talks several times, though none have prevailed. The most recent talks are being held in the International Criminal Court in Havana. Much of the people of Colombia have joined a group protesting FARC called Un Millon de Voces contra las FARC meaning one million voices against FARC. The purpose of this was to give the Colombian people a way to have their voice heard.
Since the need for technology has grown, the need for minerals like Tungsten has increased exponentially. It is because of this growth that over the past decade Illegal mining has surpassed kidnapping in importance for FARC’s funding. They control a mine on Tiger hill and impose taxes on the local Indians for mining in the area. What’s worse is because it’s illegal to mine on this forest preserve the natives have to go through FARC or another Para-military group to make any money off of the ore themselves.
Tungsten is used in almost everything, from monitors to cars, from our ball point pens to parts in your smart phone. Companies such as Apple, BMW, Ferrari, Volkswagen, Samsung, and BIC have purchased from a supply chain that buys Tungsten ore from Colombia. “While Tiger Hill is illegal, it’s the only known tungsten mine in Colombia, according to the police and Environment Ministry officials responsible for regulating mining.” (Bloomberg) There are other ways of getting tungsten; many Natives will dig small holes in the forest looking for rare minerals like tungsten, coltan or gold.
Colombia’s police give several reasons as to why this particular mine is an illegal Tungsten mine. Reasons such as it is located on a protected land, and that the people running this mine, FARC, is a considered a terrorist group by several different countries besides Colombia. This Guerilla group controls a large part of southern Colombia, in the Guainía province.
The Colombian government has been confiscating illegal substances that this group has been attempting to smuggle out of the country using the Inirida River in the amazon. The government has confiscated approximately 27.9 tons since 2010 reports Bloomberg. They have yet to mount an attack on the group at tiger hill because it is difficult terrain. Tiger hill is also located on an Indian preserve and they are worried that the native might get hurt in an attempted raid.
Much of the southern part of Colombia was under FARC control in the late 1990’s when the current president with drew military and police from the area in order to give FARC a safe place in which to negotiate peace. After this the government attempted to engage in peace talks, there was no cease-fire agreement in place so the war continued despite the peace effort. Eventually the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia lost control over much of the southern area. Garry Leech tells about FARC losing control in his book The FARC, the longest insurgency:
In February, the peace process ends when President Pastrana orders the military to invade the FARC-controlled safe haven. The government blames the FARC for its refusal to agree to a ceasefire, while the guerrillas point to the government’s unwillingness to seriously negotiate the country’s economic and social problems and its failure to dismantle the paramilitary groups. (Leech X)
Though FARC still maintains control of the Guainía province, they have lost much of the control they had in the past. And many of the Tungsten mines that supply FARC with money are not controlled by the group but more controlled by the locals and FARC charges these natives for the right to mine. There had been talks in recent years about trying to take control of the Tiger hill mine, but Montenegro, the Guainía local police commander gave this comment on the subject, “We want to mount an operation there, but it is very, very complicated because it’s on Indian land,” (Bloomberg).
Many large multi-national companies, such as BIC and apple, are starting independent investigations into whether their suppliers are getting their Tungsten through legitimate sources, and not from a conflict source. Plansee was questioned about where their Colombian Tungsten was coming from; they later issued a news release saying they would not be buying Tungsten ore from Colombia. BMW’s spokesman Frank Wienstroth was quoted as saying “These few grams out of the billions of tons of raw materials passing through the BMW supply chain are of no practical relevance,” (Bloomberg). The spokesman also made comments about how the company works hard to not get anything from a tainted supplier.
Geo Copper, one of the suppliers to Plansee, is believed to be the connection to FARC tungsten and our products. There were several claims buy Geo Copper employees that they had done business with members of FARC.
Since 2008, there have been 40 shipments of tungsten ore from Colombia by 14 companies, according to government export documents. Although none of the records from these shipments say the tungsten ore comes from FARC-run Tiger Hill, Colombian authorities are convinced that it does. (Bloomberg)
Many companies have tried to say that they are getting their ore from legitimate mines, such as the Caney mine co-owned by Geo-Copper. But whether or not the minerals came from her is under speculation, and there is evidence that points to the ore coming from Tiger Hill. Many of Geo-Copper’s employees have reported that they have had to barter with FARC guards for Tungsten ore. What we need to do is remove the conflict minerals from our lives as much as possible, many companies are taking steps to do this, but not enough is being done. In order to remove conflict minerals from being a problem in places like the Colombia, we need to get rid of the need for them. This is not likely to happen right away, but if we work towards finding conflict free products it will improve the lives of those in places like Colombia.
Smith, Michael. "How Colombian FARC Terrorists Mining Tungsten Are Linked to Your BMW Sedan." Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 7 Aug. 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.
"Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People's Army." Stanford University. Stanford University, n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
Andavolu, Krishna. "Colombia's Hidden Killers | VICE United States." VICE. VICE News, 12 July 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2014.
Leech, Garry. The FARC: The Longest Insurgency. N.p.: Fernwood, n.d. Print.
Carlin, Ryan E. "Pitfalls Abound in Colombia-FARC Peace Talks." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 28 Aug. 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2014.
Poliszuk, Joseph. "Colombia's Black-market Coltan Tied to Drug Traffickers, Paramilitaries." Center for Public Integrity. Center of Public Integrity, 04 Mar. 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2014
"Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People's Army." Web.stanford.edu. Stanford Univercity, 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2014
Hanson, Stephanie. "FARC, ELN: Colombia's Left-Wing Guerrillas." Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, 19 Aug. 2009. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.
Companies believed to receive possible FARC Tungsten