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The hidden cost of BMWs, Ferraris, Porsches and Volkswagens

Tuesday, 13 August, 2013

“One company that buys and processes Colombian wolframite, or tungsten ore, supplies some of the world’s leading multinational corporations — including the makers of BMWs, Ferraris, Porsches and Volkswagens as well as Siemens AG (SIE) and the producer of BIC pens, these companies say.”

Brilliant reporting by Michael Smith for Bloomberg Markets Magazine in an article titled “How Colombian FARC Terrorists Mining Tungsten Are Linked to Your BMW Sedan.” But lots of other well-known companies are connected to this dirty trade: “Apple Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) and Samsung Electronics Co. purchase parts from a firm that buys from the company that imports tungsten ore from Colombia, company records show.”

What Smith documents about the tungsten market is disturbing in the extreme, but some end users give the impression that all is well: “Munich-based BMW Group spokesman Frank Wienstroth says his company works hard to avoid purchasing anything from tainted suppliers. ‘These few grams out of the billions of tons of raw materials passing through the BMW supply chain are of no practical relevance,’ he says.”

Smith’s sobering conclusion: “Sixty-one hundred kilometers away from the glistening buildings of Silicon Valley, miners in Colombia’s Guainia province dig for tungsten ore on FARC-controlled land. The minerals they extract from the red earth help feed the world’s voracious appetite for luxury cars, smartphones and computers. Neither the Colombian government nor the world’s most powerful corporations have been able to stop a trade that has helped fund a half-century-long war.”


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