Illegal Mining a Golden Opportunity for Mexico Crime Groups – by Patrick Corcoran (Insight Crime – September 29, 2016)

A prominent Mexican activist turned government official recently called attention to the ties between organized crime and the nation’s mining industry, sounding an alarm that has grown increasingly loud in recent years.

In an early September public event concentrating largely on the 1994 Chiapas uprising, Jaime Martínez Veloz, head of the official Commission for the Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples (Comisión para el Diálogo con los Pueblos Indígenas) and a longtime advocate, blamed Mexico’s mining industry for strengthening organized crime.

Martínez Veloz’s agency, which operates as part of the Interior Ministry, has long made the mining industry’s potential for harming Mexico’s indigenous communities a priority. In 2014, it issued a report decrying the extension of tens of thousands of mining concessions over the past 20 years, thereby threatening many rural communities near the facilities.

Martínez Veloz’s focus on the danger of the mining industry’s ties with organized crime is more novel, however, and it is part of a growing chorus; government officials, activists, and investigators have all noted with alarm the increasing control groups like the Zetas and the Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios) have over mining interests in Mexico.

For instance, a lengthy April report (pdf) by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime details the phenomenon’s evolution in Mexico and other Latin American countries. The authors estimate that 9 percent of Mexico’s multibillion-dollar gold industry is the result of illegal production, while mining in five different states — Chihuahua, Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, and Tamaulipas — is controlled by criminal groups.

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