Mexican police seize 119,000 tonnes of iron ore mined by drug lords

Mexican police seizes 119,000 tonnes of iron ore mined by drug lords

Mexican soldiers detain cartel suspects in Michoacán, 2007.

Mexico’s notoriously violent drug lords are diversifying their sources of revenue through illegal mining, tapping now into the iron ore industry, as a major police, soldiers and government inspectors raid at one of the country’s main ports revealed Tuesday.

Authorities seized 119,000 tons of the steel-making ore, as well as 124 bulldozers, backhoes and trucks as a result of the crackdown at the Pacific coast seaport of Lázaro Cardenas, following tips about drug cartels exporting ore to China.

The federal security commissioner for western Michoacán told Periódico Digital (in Spanish) the commodity is being tested to determine which mines it came from in order to clamp down on the operation.

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 nearby precedent in Colombia, where local drug barons often took up stakes in gold and coal mines.