Web Editors' Choice 2013

By The Editors - 2013-12-24T19:48:39Z

Photograph by Carlos Villalon/Bloomberg Markets 

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Guerrillas in the Mist

Tungsten is a rare, super-hard metal that’s a backbone of 21st century technology. It helps mobile phones vibrate when they ring and is found in the engines of the most popular cars in the world. It’s also funding one of the world’s longest-running guerrilla wars. Reporter Michael Smith and photographer Carlos Villalon trekked deep in the Amazon jungle with tungsten miners paid by the FARC, a terrorist group that uses mineral sales to fund warfare in Colombia. Smith tracked the illegally-mined tungsten to companies that make everything from iPhones to BMWs. The report led to a criminal investigation by Colombia’s national prosecutor and the halt of Colombian purchases by the world’s biggest tungsten buyer. Apple, Samsung and BIC pens opened their own investigations to clean up their supply lines. 

After the story was published, Colombia police said they would shut down the FARC tungsten mine