Mexico’s drug barons make forays into coal mining

Mexico’s notoriously violent drug barons are turning to coal mining to both expand and diversify their sources of revenue.

The Herald Sun reports that Mexican drug cartels have engaged in the direct ownership and operation of mines along the coal rich US-Mexican border. The cartels reap immense returns from the sale of the solid fossil fuel to state-owned companies, often obtaining profits as high as 30 times their initial investment, while also obtaining an effective channel for money laundering

The Zetas, founded by renegade members of the Mexican special forces and renowned for some of the most heinous acts of violence during regional drug wars, are believed by experts to be the first cartel to make a foray into the mining sector.

Heriberto Lazcano, a Zetas chief who was killed during a gunfight with authorities in the coal mining town of Progreso on October 7, owned his own coal pit in the region,while the cartel has reportedly long engaged in illegal coal mining in the mineral-rich state of Coahuila.

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

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

Image of captured Zetas courtesy of Al Jazeera via Youtube