Metals and Minerals Smuggling

Information and statistics about metals and minerals smuggling. Data about gold smuggling, diamond smuggling and other precious metals are collected from intelligence reports, security agencies and other public information sources.

Custom officials in India reported seizing 48,600 crates of conflict diamonds in Surat and Mumbai in 2011. The crates of diamonds did not have the proper Kimberly Process Certification and was believed to have been smuggled out of Zimbabwe. The diamonds were worth $1.75 Million.

Up to $1 Billion in potential diamond revenue is smuggled out of Zimbabwe each year.

10 out of 11 diamonds sold around the world are cut in India.

Source:  Pradeep Thakur, “Conflict diamonds’ entry to India raises money laundering fear,” Times of India, June 26, 2012.

In 2011, authorities in Vietnam seized 124,000 tons of ore and coal that were illegally mined within the country. The amount of minerals seized in 2011 was 25 percent higher than the 2010 totals.

Most of the minerals are smuggled out of the country using fake documentation or mislabeling the minerals.

Source:  Minh Thi, “Illegal export of minerals rampant,” VietNam News, April 16, 2012.

In the Madre de Dios region of Peru, there are an estimated 18,000 people who are mining for gold in the area. Authorities say that up to 97 percent, or 17,460 miners, are working there without being registered as a miner. In the region, up to 50 percent of all economic activity is due to the illegal gold mining industry.

The Madre de Dios region produces up to one-fifth of the gold produced annually by Peru.

Source:  Hannah Stone, “Peru Cracks Down on Illegal Gold Mining,” InSight, March 16, 2012.


The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is estimated to earn around $1 Million a month through illegal mining activities. The guerrillas control access to illegal gold mines and charge users up to $1,600 for each backhoe that is used in the mining operation.

Source:  Edward Fox, “FARC Set to Exploit Venezuela ‘Conflict Mineral’ ,” InSight, March 12, 2012.

Up to $1 Billion in potential revenue from the extraction of diamonds in Zimbabwe was reported to be missing as of 2011, according to the country’s Finance Minister and civic leaders.

Source: “ZANU stealing diamond money: NGOs,” Zimbabwean, September 3, 2011.

A United Nations employee who was tasked with driving an official UN Jeep was arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo for trafficking minerals.

The driver was found carrying 1,200 kilograms of tin ore.

Source: Michael Kavanagh, “UN Jeep, Driver Seized for Mineral Trafficking on Congo, Rwandan Border,” Bloomberg, August 22, 2011.

The gold industry in South Africa loses an estimated $996 Million (6.7 Billion South African Rand) a year to illicit gold smuggling, according to the country’s Intelligence Minister.

Source: AFP, “Illegal economy costs S.Africa $26 bn, claims minister,” Google News, June 3, 2011.

Illegal logging and illegal mining on the Indonesian island of Borneo costs the country up to $36.4 Billion.

Up to 1,236 mining firms and 537 oil palm plantation companies are believed to be operating illegally on the island.

Source: “Illegal Logging, Mining Ravages Kalimantan, Costs Indonesia $36.4b,” Jakarta Globe, April 28, 2011.

Drug cartels in Mexico are reported to be diversifying into other criminal black market activities to increase revenue. One such industry is the steel industry. In 2010, $240 Million worth of steel was stolen from producers by drug cartels, with the pace of robberies doubling in 2011.

Source: Mica Rosenberg, “Drug gangs clash with dogged miners in Mexico,” Reuters, April 14, 2011.

Up to 80 percent of the minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo are smuggled out of the country by planes, cars and barges.

Source: Associated Press, “Gold smuggling a way of life in east Congo,” Washington Post, March 5, 2011.