How Tainted Gold May Have Ended Up in Your Phone

Producer/Director Brent McDonald

If you’re reading this on your phone, you may be holding illegally mined gold from Colombia, where the precious metal has replaced cocaine as the main source of income for organized crime. The growing demand for gold as a conductive metal used in phones and other electronic products has helped spawn a deadly illegal trade that’s harder to track than other black-market commodities like blood diamonds or drugs.

“The Weekly” travels to Colombia, where violent paramilitary groups have infiltrated every level of the supply chain, extorting prospectors, gold traders and some of the country’s top mining officials. Our correspondent Nicholas Casey traces gold tainted by criminal enterprises to see who profits, and who looks the other way. He discovers a route from illegal Colombian mines to the source that Apple and other major companies use to buy metals to make phones and other products many of us carry in our pockets every day.

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Nicholas Casey is the Andes bureau chief for The New York Times, covering most of the countries in South America, including Venezuela and Colombia. Before joining The Times in 2015, Nick was a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he reported on drug cartels in Mexico and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the last Gaza war. In 2016, he won the George Polk Award with photographer Meridith Kohut for their coverage of Venezuela. Follow him on Twitter at @caseysjournal.

Brent McDonald is a senior video correspondent at The Times based in Mexico, where he focuses on coverage of Latin America. His work has been honored with National Murrow Awards, a World Press Photo award, a POYi Multimedia Photographer of the Year prize, and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Deadline Club Award. Follow him on Twitter at @docubrent.


Senior Story Editors Dan Barry, Liz O. Baylen, and Liz Day
Colombia Producer Yerlin Pineda
Producer Lizzie Blenk
Directors of Photography Victor Tadashi Suarez and Vanessa Carr
Video Editor David Herr
Associate Producer Lora Moftah

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