Spectacular Heist Exposes Suboptimal Security ConditionsBy Alejandro Ehrenberg | Mon, 04/13/2020 - 17:24
A group of armed men raided the Mulatos mine in Sonora, owned by Canadian gold producer Alamos Gold, stealing an undefined number of doré bars. As reported by the New York Times, the heist was perpetrated at the mine’s airstrip. The company’s security personnel were loading the bars into a vehicle for transport when a Cessna-type aircraft abruptly landed. The criminals took hold of the bars, loaded them into the airplane and flew off into the mountains. According to information printed by Resource World, no one was hurt and the bars were insured.
This is not the first security episode hitting the region’s miners recently. In response to the Mulatos theft, Sonora’s Association of Miners (AMSAC) made the following statement: “It is worth remembering that on March 26, an armed squad broke into Fresnillo plc’s property in Caborca municipality, Sonora. The industry is ramping down its activities in an effort to minimize contagions during the present sanitary emergency. This makes mines a target for organized crime. AMSAC urges authorities to reinforce security at mining units.”
It goes without saying that security is, first and foremost, the responsibility of the state. Some thinkers go further and argue that protecting its citizens is the state’s primary raison d’être. But businesses also have a role to play. Mario Salomón, Country Manager of Grupo Multisistemas de Seguridad Industrial (GMSI), a private security provider, told Mexico Business News that cooperation between companies and the government is essential. “To reinforce security around mining sites, coordination among private security companies, the army and the federal police is necessary. GMSI develops action plans specific to each client. According to each particular need, we coordinate with federal and local security forces to protect our clients. The key is to be able to dovetail our areas of expertise with those of the pubic security forces. The service we provide is mainly intramural; that is to say, it is focused on protecting our client’s personnel and resources. It is focused on making the client as resistant to any security breach as possible.”
In addition to working with security companies, miners can implement innovative technology to protect themselves against crime. In an interview with Mexico Business News, Scarleth Acuña, CEO of Oruss, a GPS-based technology developer, pointed out that cargo theft is a significant problem in Mexico. To counter the problem, Oruss created a device that ensures that a container on a trailer is not opened until it reaches its destination. “The device works on the basis of GPS,” said Acuña. “The system ensures a container can only be opened once it is in certain areas. These areas are configured through remote access and usually refer to the point of arrival. Once the cargo has arrived at the destination, the operator can see whether there has been tampering or manipulation of any kind.”
Headline-catching events like the Mulatos heist are just the tip of the iceberg. Mexico’s suboptimal security conditions are a constant hindrance to miners doing business in the country. As Ernesto Ramírez, Director General at Puerto Carguero Logistics, a trucking company specializing in the mining industry, said to Mexico Business News, “the lack of road security is a major problem that has led to insurance costs rising by as much as 25 percent in recent years. We are paying between 10 and 12 percent of the value of a truck each year in insurance. That is a very high cost.” In order to strengthen Mexico’s competitiveness against rival jurisdictions, authorities would do well to make security a top priority.