Criminal Onslaught Sees Mexico Mining Companies Take to the Skies

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Mining companies in Mexico are now using aircraft to move their products and personnel and ramping up investment in security in order to avoid being robbed and extorted by organized crime, in the latest sign criminal groups are increasingly diversifying into Mexico’s mining industry.

Jesus Herrera Ortega, a member of the Association of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists, and Geologists of Mexico, told Excelsior that due to harassment by organized crime they are using planes and helicopters to move their personnel and mineral products. Ortega said that criminals “rob the minerals, threaten the companies in exchange for their safety, and rob trailers loaded [with zinc and lead].” Ortega says that despite paying for increased security patrols and GPS systems to track shipments, the assaults continue.

In 2013, companies affiliated with the Mexico Chamber of Mining (Camimex) spent a total of roughly $41 million dollars on private security — a 14% increase from 2012, reported Excelsior.

Camimex’s annual report noted how mining is one of the most vulnerable industrial sectors to armed robbery, given operations are generally located in isolated areas with limited access. Mines in Durango, Zacatecas, Michoacan, and Coahuila, have been most affected, and for several months now mining companies have been using air transport to move minerals, diesel fuel, and personnel to avoid the risk of being assaulted.

InSight Crime Analysis

Organized crime groups in Mexico have been moving in on the mining sector for some time as they seek to diversify their revenue streams and look for sources of income beyond drug trafficking. In 2012, the Zetas, the Gulf Cartel and the Knights Templar were identified as the organizations most involved in the sector.

The sort of extortion and robbery that has caused mining companies to increase their security precautions remains the mainstay of criminal groups’ activities in the mining sector. However, there have also been reports that some groups are running their own small scale mining operations, while others are using minerals to launder money. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Mining

Although the level of criminal involvement in mining in Mexico appears to be on the rise, it still has some way to go before it reaches the levels seen in Colombia, where mining has replaced the drug trade as the primary source of income for criminal groups in some regions, and high ranking police have identified it as the biggest security challenge facing the country.

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