HomeNewsBriefWorth Its Weight In Gold: New Unit Combats Mine Heists In Mexico
BRIEF

Worth Its Weight In Gold: New Unit Combats Mine Heists In Mexico

KNIGHTS TEMPLAR / 28 OCT 2020 BY KATIE JONES EN

Several months after a sophisticated robbery where gunmen hijacked gold alloy bars being loaded onto a plane in Mexico, the government has stood up a specialized force to secure mining sites long terrorized by organized crime.

On October 18, more than 100 agents with Mexico’s newly-formed Federal Protection Service (Servicio de Protección Federal — SPF) were deployed to the La Herradura mine in the northern border state Sonora, the government announced in a news release. The open-pit gold mine is one of Mexico’s largest, according to mining firm Fresnillo, a British-owned company with sites across Mexico, including La Herradura.

The unit’s launch comes about six months after a brazen “express robbery” of the Mulatos Mine, also in Sonora.

SEE ALSO: Knights Templar Control Mexico Iron Mines Supplying China

On April 8, five heavily armed men stormed the Mulatos site as employees moved doré bars — made of gold and silver — onto a contracted plane at the mine’s airstrip, according to a release by the mine’s owner, Minas de Oro Nacional SA de CV, a subsidiary of the Canadian firm Alamos Gold Inc.

As the men held the mine’s employees and security personnel hostage, a small Cessna plane landed on the airstrip. The armed men managed to “extract a quantity of bars,” and then made off in the Cessna, the company said in the release. The heist took less than ten minutes.

Thefts of precious metals in transit have been a source of growing alarm among industry officials in Mexico.

In March, a Fresnillo subsidiary reported a squad of armed men intercepted two trucks carrying bars of doré sourced from one of its mines. Similarly, gunmen hijacked a truck transporting precious metals from a Fresnillo mine in November of last year, taking more than 40 gold bars worth nearly $24 million.

At the inauguration of the new police unit in late September, Mexico’s Public Safety Secretary Alfonso Durazo said that the securing of mining installations “is delicate and requires high specialization,” according to a news release.  Officers will also safeguard the transport of precious metals.

Manuel Espino Barrientos, the SPF’s commander, announced that a second squadron would soon undergo training and be deployed to patrol another of Mexico’s important mines.

InSight Crime Analysis

The special police unit’s launch suggests private security employed by mining companies is unable to match the firepower and speed of armed groups — but organized crime’s infiltration of the mining sector may undermine the new government force.

Foreign-owned corporations control numerous mining sites across Mexico. Unrelenting attacks, however, have forced some to rein in their activities.

In 2018, Canada’s Pan American Silver Corp temporarily scaled back operations at its remote site in Chihuahua, to protect employees. The company reported repeated incidents on access roads to the mine. Fear of attacks by armed groups also forced workers to hole up in the mine. Some were later evacuated on private planes.

SEE ALSO: Mexico’s 76,000 Ton Iron Seizure Fraction of Knights Templar Exports

Mexico’s mining industry is of economic importance to the nation, generating approximately 2.6 million jobs and comprising 8 percent of its industrial gross domestic product.

There has long been a pressing need in Mexico to secure mining sites and precious metal transport, and the new police unit may help prevent armed assaults. But organized crime groups facilitate corruption at all levels in the mining industry.

For example, the Knights Templar cartel smuggled lucrative iron ore. The group so thoroughly infiltrated the mining process that it at one time controlled the entire production chain, from extraction to exportation.

In 2013, it was reported that mining in five different states — Chihuahua, Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, and Tamaulipas — was controlled by criminal groups.

Organized crime networks have reportedly deepened their influence over companies in the sector by “providing their services” to protect mining interests.

Members of vigilante groups claimed that the Zetas facilitated the expansion of a high-profile gold mining project in Puebla — threatening opponents with death.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

HUMAN SMUGGLING / 12 JUL 2011

The head of the Red Cross in Mexico condemned the use of his organization’s symbol by criminal groups trafficking illegal…

MEXICO / 6 JAN 2014

Mexico's citizen self-defense or vigilante groups have made major shows of strength as the year has begun, indicating that…

GUATEMALA / 30 DEC 2014

Guatemala's private sector has hired former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani to come up with a security plan to fight…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…