Photograph by Carlos Villalon/Bloomberg Markets
While the Indians do the digging, they rely on another, more powerful group to get the ore to market: the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Andres Lopez, a Curripaco Indian leader and evangelical Christian preacher, has worked at Tiger Hill—which FARC controls—mining tungsten ore destined for exporters. The mine is illegal in three ways: It’s inside a forest preserve, it’s banned by Colombian law because it’s on an Indian reservation, and it’s run by the FARC, which is classified by Colombia, the U.S. and the European Union as a terrorist organization. Lopez says the FARC demands that Indians pay a cut of all of mining revenue even though the mine is on a protected reservation.