Uruguayan authorities at the port of Paysandú have seized a meteorite worth around US$ 1 million when it was being smuggled into the country from Argentina, it was reported earlier this week.
The Uruguayan Navy found the piece weighing approximately 400 kilos, which was determined to have stemmed from Campo del Cielo, an extensive region that includes the provinces of Chaco and Santiago del Estero.
Experts from the University of the Republic of Uruguay's School of Sciences later determined the rock was in fact a meteorite and only then did the event become newsworthy.
According to the Uruguayan Navy, the meteorite is one of the largest metallic meteorites ever known.
”The value depends on the weight and how it is sold (in whole or in pieces). The price of this type of piece is approximately US$ 1,000 per kilo. But the cost per kilo increases depending on the weight and rarity of the rock, in this case, it is one of the largest found, exceeding US$ 1 million if the whole piece were sold, the Uruguayan Navy said in a statement.
Any meteorite fallen in Argentine territory until now is considered a cultural asset by Law 26.306. To leave the country for any reason it has to have the corresponding permits, explained Argentine geologist Silvia Ametrano, head of the Mineralogy and Petrology Division of the Museum of La Plata.
Ametrano also pointed out the Campo del Cielo meteor shower took place some 4,000 years ago and [it] generated a dispersion field of these meteorites over the provinces of Chaco and Santiago del Estero.
It was a natural event that had a cultural impact on native populations living in those areas. These territories ... have [each] their own provincial legislation that indicates that the pieces should not leave there, Ametrano went on. The impact craters that still exist are abundant.
The scientist also pointed out meteorites have a commercial value; in this case, we are talking about a 400 kilograms piece. It is not the first time that this has happened in an attempt to remove them in an illicit way. The illegal traffic of pieces of the Campo del Cielo meteorite is very frequent, but not as big as this one,” she stressed.