Criminal organizations now control the right to mine in at least five Mexico states, according to those working in the sector, in another example of illegal groups expanding into resource exploitation in areas where state presence is weak.
Dozens of mining companies -- including multinationals -- are being extorted by criminal groups in the states of Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Guerrero, Morelos, and Michoacan, leading some companies to appeal to the federal government to take action, reported 24 horas.
According to sources consulted by 24 Horas, the situation is particularly grave in mineral-rich Michoacan, where both local companies and international companies from countries such as the United States, Canada, China and India must pay for the right to extract and transport metals including iron, gold, silver, and copper. The sources said government efforts to tackle the issue by setting up military checkpoints throughout the state have so far failed.
InSight Crime Analysis
The involvement of Mexican criminal groups in resource extraction has been a problem for some time and not just through extortion -- earlier this year the accounts of 12 mining companies accused of ties to drug traffickers were frozen as authorities investigated claims of money laundering, tax evasion and breach of federal regulations.
The movement of illegal groups into mining has been seen across the region, especially in Colombia where both guerrilla and drug trafficking organizations are heavily involved in both extorting miners and running their own illegal mining operations. According to the authorities, in at least eight Colombian provinces, gold mining has overtaken drug trafficking as the main source of funding for illegal groups. While gold is the mainstay of illegal mining, criminal groups have also branched out into other sectors, such as the precious minerals tungsten and coltan, which are mined by the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
As in Colombia, in Mexico criminal involvement in mining is highest in regions where the state lacks control, either due to the difficulties of policing isolated regions with inhospitable terrain or because of the control exerted on the areas by criminal groups.