A nearly year-long investigation by Mongabay led to a multi-part reporting project into the illegal production and trade of charcoal in Myanmar.One route for charcoal sales from Myanmar to China documented by Mongabay could generate as much as $10 million a year in payoffs alone to Burmese government officials.Charcoal is used to make silicon metal, used to manufacture a massive range of products, from solar panels to the silicon chips used in laptops and other mobile devices.In this series, reported for Mongabay by investigative journalist Emmanuel Freudenthal with photography and videography by Nathan Siegel, we go behind the curtain to reveal a world of conflicting interests, needs, and loyalties in forest management and conservation. BHAMO, Myanmar – A trader turns off his truck’s engine at yet another checkpoint and, again, the soldiers ask him for cash. His truck is filled with charcoal from Myanmar, destined for factories in China’s mountainous southwest province of Yunnan. The charcoal will be fed into furnaces to produce silicon metal, a material so versatile it is used to manufacture everything from metal alloys to silicon chips and solar panels. Despite the cross-border charcoal trade being illegal, the practice contributes greatly to the livelihoods of modest farmers and traders in Myanmar’s riverside villages. But every year, about 14,000 soccer fields of forests go up in flames to feed the smelters, while corrupt officials, especially in the military, collect bribes worth $1.2 million a year, and possibly over $10 million. A nearly year-long investigation by Mongabay documents for the first time the routes used in this trade as well as its benefits and pitfalls.