(Photo: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg)
At the end of a muddy track through plantations of oil-palm and cocoa on the Indonesian island of Bangka, three dozen men on wooden rafts off the beach are dredging black sand from the shallow bay.
The workers, near the village of Sungai Liat, are among hundreds of illegal tin miners on the island, the first link in a chain of trucks, smelters and fishing boats that smuggles the metal out of the country. Backed by a complex web of corruption and international payments, the dark sediment is transformed into the solder that ultimately ends up binding the electronics in everything from smartphones to cars.
The trail begins on two islands off the coast of Sumatra in a sea channel that connects Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, to Singapore and Malaysia. These islands, called Bangka and Belitung, produce more than 90 percent of the tin in Indonesia, which is the world’s biggest exporter of the metal.
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