FBI, This Week: Illicit Mining and Human Rights Abuses


January 16, 2020

An FBI initiative designed to disrupt transnational criminal organizations from illegally mining minerals and precious metals is in its fifth year.


Audio Transcript

Mollie Halpern: An FBI initiative designed to disrupt transnational criminal organizations from illegally mining minerals and precious metals is in its fifth year. 

The Illegal Mining Initiative also investigates U.S. businesses and individuals who financially benefit from the facilitation or sale of illicit gold. 

A modern-day gold rush resulted in a sharp rise of illicit mining operations, which provide transnational criminal organizations, or TCOs, a source of income and a way to launder money. 

Intelligence Analyst Angel Camacho says TCOs operate in the precious metal trade much in the same manner they traffic drugs... 

Angel Camacho: …utilizing the same techniques, routes and other resources they have from one activity to other. So, for them, there's no difference between illegal gold or cocaine. 

Halpern: January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.  

Illegal mining is intertwined with other crimes, including sex trafficking and child labor. 

Camacho says children as young as 8 years old have been forced to work in the mines. 

Camacho: People end up buried alive, they drown—it's a disaster. At the end of the day, there's a lot of human suffering that happens across the hemisphere. You have a criminal organization that’s benefiting from suffering and death just to obtain some gold.  

Halpern: If you’re a victim of human trafficking call or text the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 888-373-7888. 

Learn more about illicit mining at fbi.gov 

With FBI, This Week, I’m Mollie Halpern of the Bureau. 

Audio Download