Mexican police seized 68,000 tonnes of iron ore mined by drug lords

Mexican police seized 68,000 tonnes of iron ore mined by drug lords

Lazaro Cardenas, one of the main port cities on the Pacific coast and a drug-trafficking hotspot.

Mexican authorities have seized a ship carrying 68,000 tonnes of illegal iron ore to China as part of the government’s battle to shut down a suspected operation by the Knights Templar drug cartel.

Authorities, Cuba Debate (in Spanish) reported, were tipped off by an anonymous phone call after the ship left Lazaro Cardenas, one of the main port cities on the Pacific coast and a drug-trafficking hotspot.

The town's mayor had been arrested the day before over suspected links to drug traffickers.

The ship, Jian Hua, was detained near the Pacific port of Manzanillo, and its crew produced documentation showing it had authorization to transport the iron ore. But the paperwork listed a mine that could not have been its source, according to the report.

The company operating the ship, China’s Fujian Huarong Marine, has now 30 days to prove to authorities that the iron ore was extracted legally from Mexico.

So far this year Mexico has seized more than 200,000 tonnes of illegal iron ore, most of it on its way to China.

In March, authorities seized 119,000 tonnes of iron ore mined by the Knights Templar cartel, which is also one of the main suppliers of methamphetamines to the United States.

In November last year, the Mexican Navy took over control of the port to cut off illicit income for the Michoacán-based Knights Templar drug cartel, said to have been mining or stealing iron ore for years.

In addition to obtaining immense profits from their mining ventures some Mexico’s drug barons can also avail themselves of a convenient means of legitimizing and diversifying their earnings. Licit high-income businesses make it easy for the gangs to launder their illegal proceeds.

The entry of Mexico’s drug cartels into the mining sector has a precedent in Colombia, where local drug barons often took up stakes in gold and coal mines.