The Colombian Army seized nearly 6 tons of black sand with coltan on the Guaviare River, Guainía department, at the border with Venezuela, on March 14, 2021. Service members attributed the shipment to a dissident group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish), led by alias Gentil Duarte.
Coltan is a mineral used in microelectronics, telecommunications, and the aerospace industry.
The Army identified groups of the National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish) and the FARC that have been illegally exploiting this mineral, seeking to smuggle it through the border area with Brazil and Venezuela, to transfer it to Germany, Belgium, Kazakhstan, and the United States.
The study Coltan Mining in Colombia, published by the District University of Bogotá in March 2021, also shows the link between narcotrafficking and paramilitary groups in eastern Colombia, which engage in the illegal extraction and commercialization of this valuable mineral.
The document records the boundaries of coltan deposits demarcated by the Colombian Geological System, which has located potential areas in Vichada and Guainía departments, on the borders with Brazil and Venezuela, and in Vaupés department.
Colombian authorities have been working to counter the extraction and exploitation of coltan since 2009, when then Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced the discovery of a large deposit of the mineral near the Colombian border, the investigation indicated.
The report adds that “The environmental impact of coltan mining has damaging externalities, such as deforestation, ecosystem imbalance, species extinction, and the loss of cultural identity, among others, without taking into account that it is practiced in conservation areas, such as the Puinawai National Nature Reserve.”
Before this seizure of nearly 6 tons, the Police had seized more than 1,700 kilograms of coltan in several departments in the country in the last two years, said Police Colonel William Castaño Ramos, commander of the National Unit against Illicit Mining.