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Spain Nabs Africa E-Waste Dumpers

FILE - Workers unload and sort through a container full of electronic waste that was collected from a Nairobi slum and brought in for recycling, at the East African Compliant Recycling facility in Machakos, near Nairobi, in Kenya, Aug. 18. 2014.

Spanish police have broken up a criminal group that smuggled over 5,000 tonnes of hazardous electronic waste from Spain's Canary Islands to several African countries, authorities said Tuesday.

Police arrested 43 people suspected of having illegally shipped 331 containers of used electronics to Africa over the past two years, the finance ministry said in a statement.

The network allegedly forged customs documents for the exported waste to make it seem that the containers held second-hand goods, in an operation valued at over 1.5 million euros.

Most of the trash was sent to Ghana, Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal.

Africa has become a major dumping ground for discarded electronics from around the world, known as e-waste.

This is often burned to extract minerals such as aluminium and copper that can fetch a high value when resold.

In many places in Africa, children and teens are involved in electronics reclamation, exposing them to cadmium, mercury, lead, arsenic and other substances that can harm the environment or human health when they are not properly handled.