Thursday, November 30, 2023

New security force will safeguard mines against cartels

Mexico has a new security force to protect the nation’s mines from drug cartels, the government announced Monday.

The first 118 mine guards, who will be equipped with assault rifles, graduated from a special training course and will be tasked with “solving the attacks by organized crime in this economic sector,” Security Minister Security Alfonso Durazo said.

“Today concludes a pioneering and highly relevant course in the increasingly broad profile in the training of the members of the federal protection service,” Durazo said at the officers’ graduation ceremony. “We know that the security of these facilities is delicate and requires high specialization. In coordination with the Ministry of the Economy and the industrial chambers, specialized strategies have been created for the mining regions.”

Foreign-run gold and silver mines have long been subject to extortion by drug cartels, and in recent years criminal organizations have also stolen minerals or semi-refined metals from the mines.

In 2015, a drug cartel stole around 4.5 kilograms of gold and silver from a mine in northern Mexico. The British-owned Fresnillo mining company, which operates three mines in Mexico including the largest silver mine in the world, reported that the theft occurred near its Herradura mine in Sonora when armed men carrying high-caliber weapons stopped a company vehicle and stole the ore.

That same year, thieves stole 7,000 ounces of gold worth US $8.5 million from the Canadian-owned El Gallo 1 mine in Mocorito, Sinaloa.  

In 2018, the Canadian company Pan American Silver temporarily reduced some operations at its mine in northern Mexico due to safety concerns.

The company noted that its employees had experienced safety problems on the roads leading to the mine in a remote part of Chihuahua, a region plagued by criminal groups. At one point, employees hid in the mine, fearful to leave due to threats from armed groups, and some employees were evacuated in private planes.

And in April 2020, Minas de Oro Nacional, a subsidiary of the Canadian firm Alamos Gold, was the victim of a daring theft of 1,000 ounces of silver and gold when five armed men subdued security guards and loaded their booty into a waiting small plane in an attack that took less than 10 minutes.

The decision to form a special squad of mine police was made at a summit on mining security held in May.

Some 2.6 million Mexicans are employed in the mining industry. In 2019, Mexican mines produced 244 billion pesos (US $11.25 billion) worth of ore.

Source: El Financiero (sp)

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