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Mexican Drug Cartel Finds Mining Iron Ore More Lucrative Than Making Meth


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It may seem counterintuitive, but one of Mexico’s largest drug cartels has branched out into an essentially legit line of business which is even more profitable than selling drugs: mining iron ore. The Knights Templar, a pseudo-religious outfit whose power is centered around the Mexican state of  Michoacán, originally focused on producing and selling methamphetamine. Now, the meth trade only accounts for a fraction of its income.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised: The cartels have long operated like sophisticated international corporations, and diversification fits that pattern perfectly. E. Eduardo Castillo writes for the Associated Press:

The cartel counts illegal mining, logging and extortion as its biggest moneymakers, said Alfredo Castillo, the Mexican government’s special envoy sent to restore the rule of law in Michoacan, the state controlled by the Knights Templar the last several years.

Iron ore “is their principle source of income,” Castillo told The Associated Press. “They’re charging $15 (a metric ton) for the process, from extraction to transport, processing, storage, permits and finally export.” The ore itself doesn’t go for that price; the cartel skims $15 for every ton arriving in port. While it’s long been known that Mexican cartels engage in other types of criminal activity, including trafficking of people and pirated goods, this is the government’s first official acknowledgement that a major organized crime group has moved beyond drugs.

Since January, Mexican authorities have confiscated 119,000 metric tons of cartel-associated iron ore in the port of Lazaro Cardenas.

Stacks of cashPhoto via

Stacks of cash Photo via