Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Venezuela emerges as new source of ‘conflict’ minerals

Black-market coltan likely making its way to high-tech manufacturers' supply; it's used in everything from smart phones to smart bombs.

Crouched near a mound of rocks and dirt, Ramón swings a short-handled pick at a shallow hole, showing off the technique he uses to mine what he calls “black pebbles” — stones laced with minerals important to high-tech manufacturers worldwide.

Over the last couple of years Ramón has labored at small, out-of-the-way mines, walking up to a week to reach claims he’s staked out deep in southwest Venezuela’s Amazon jungle, near the country’s border with Colombia.

It’s worth the backaches and sweat, Ramón said, rolling a near-black rock in the palm of his hand. He said he earns good money supplying brokers with stones that hold coltan ore. Read More