I investigated how charcoal is illegally harvested in Myanmar and then smuggled to China to make cosmetics, alloys and electronics.
In China, the charcoal is used to produce silicon metal, a very versatile material that is needed to manufacture a large range of products, from cosmetics to solar panels and the silicon chips used in laptops and other mobile devices.
The illegal trade is taxed by corrupt officials who agree to close their eyes in return to a yearly $10m in bribes, according to my estimates. This investigation was the first time that the existence and size of the trade was revealed.
It was published in Mongabay with photos by Nathan Siegel (including the header on this page) who also produced a video summarising the findings.