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News Article

New Organized Crime Strategies Plague Mining in the New Normal

By Andrea Villar | Sat, 07/11/2020 - 11:41

Remote areas with difficult access to security personnel and the potential for enormous economic profit make mining a perfect target for organized crime. Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and a new-normal reality that will last indefinitely, the industry faces a greater challenge in its fight against crime.

"We all know about mining’s relevance for the country in terms of investment and job creation, so combining mining with security is vital. New challenges are approaching with the pandemic and we have to be resistant because this is not a temporary situation. The new environmental and health circumstances paint an advantageous panorama for organized crime," said Ricardo Mejía Berdeja, Deputy Minister of Public Security at the Ministry of Security and Public Protection, during the webinar "Mining’s New Normal: Reactivating the Industry," organized by Francisco Quiroga, Undersecretary of Mining, and Mexico Business News.

The mining industry captured US$3.5 billion in investment in 2019. In exploration, the sector received US$382 million in that same year, according to preliminary data from CAMIMEX. The industry represents 4 percent of the country's GDP, generating 370,000 direct jobs and 2.3 million indirect jobs. Mining is also essential to supply raw materials to many other industries in the country, from health and electronics to aerospace.

To face these new challenges, Mejía highlighted the role of the National Security Strategy, which currently seeks to make strategic alliances with the private sector to confront organized crime. "This does not mean that the government has renounced its responsibility, but rather that it uses the private initiative to block any path to crime," said Mejía. This coincides with Manuel Espino Barrientos’ view, Head of the Federal Protection Service, who assured that it is important to ratify the commitments between the public and private initiative to guarantee the welfare brought by mining activities. "We are working with the Undersecretariat of Mining; we have already visited mining states to propose a strategy that is not reactive but rather anticipates crimes at mines,” he pointed out.

Among the measures that have been taken so far is the creation of a police force specialized in mining security. “We are already recruiting the best security elements. We have developed a customized comprehensive risk analysis and training program for each state and company,” explained Espino.

"The fact that there is a security table with a long-term vision is great news for the mining sector and an important response to what we expect from the new normal because organized crime will also change its strategies," said Manelich Castilla, former Commissioner of the Federal Police.

However, not everything will be as smooth as expected, said Benjamin Grajeda, Head of the Gendarmerie Division. “Global challenges have become increasingly complex. Organized crime in the country has created illegal trade networks that operate in parallel to legal mining activity.” To face this scenario, establishing a general standard for security in mining supply chains is essential, Grajeda said.

"The pandemic has had a global impact and Mexico is not exempt from it. At the end of January, we saw the first effects of COVID-19 and we began to prepare. Mining companies and communities understood these challenges early and, together with the authorities, they prepared to protect their workers and communities. Mining is not an industry based on improvisation but on careful planning," said Graciela Márquez Colín, Minister of Economy and guest of honor at today’s webinar.

Photo by:   Mexico Business News
Andrea Villar Andrea Villar Journalist and Industry Analyst