According to Colombia’s attorney general, work against the José Daniel Perez Carrero front of the ELN rebel group led a joint task force between Colombia’s Army, Navy & Police to a farm in remote Amanavén de Cumaribo in Vichada near the Orinoco River and Colombia’s border with Venezuela. 28 bags of a substance were captured, that laboratory testing confirmed as coltan.
One person was captured with the total of 1,216 kilograms of ore, that according to the Colombian prosecutor’s office may be worth as much as 453,000 USD. Coltan is an ore containing rare-earth metals like tantalum and niobium, useful in the manufacture of electronics and metal alloys.
There are legitimate mining operations of rare earth metals in Vichada, such as the recent activity by Auxico Resources, though the mining of Coltan illegally by armed insurgents is a troubling sign of new diversification into areas that put at risk the local indigenous populations, the environment, and the freedom of these remote areas from organized violence. As has been experienced in Colombia’s gold producing areas, illicit actors can put legitimate operations at risk.