Workers fear to leave mine over drug cartel threats

Alleged members of organized crime have blocked access to this gold and silver mine in Chihuahua while workers, fearing for their safety, refuse to leave the campsite
Workers fear to leave mine over drug cartel threats
Dolores silver and gold mine in Chihuahua – Photo: Courtesy of AP
27/05/2018
14:50
Mexico City
AP
-A +A

Armed groups keep close to 400 employees – at least 3 of them of Spanish nationality – holed up in an important gold and silver mine in Chihuahua.

According to the statements one of the miners gave to The Associated Press (AP), alleged members of a criminal gang have blocked access to the mine and physically attacked other employees earlier this week, reason why the rest fear to leave the campsite.

“[We] fear they'll get inside,” said the worker via a text message, who has asked to remain anonymous for security purposes.

The company has been tight-lipped about the situation but according to the worker who has stayed in contact with AP, the executives reassured workers by claiming they would stop their operations at the mine on Sunday, while some employees began to be evacuated by private light airplanes on Saturday.

“We're in touch with the executives of the mining company and we've insisted it's not necessary they halt operations,” said Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral last Friday, adding that they've offered to ensure security in mining activities "through a special and permanent operation.”

Dolores mine is an open air mine located west of the state, and is currently owned by Canadian company Pan American Silver. During the first quarter of 2018, they reported net earnings for USD$ 48 million, according to the company itself.

According to a stamement released by Chihuahua's Office of the Prosecutor on Saturday, they have tried to reach the owners of the mining company but they've gotten no reply, claim, or “a surveillance request or call for authorities to intervene due to the attacks.”

Pursuant to the statement, authorities have launched an operation to “conduct interviews and security rounds” in the area.

Oscar Alberto Aparicio, Secrutiy Commissioner of Chihuahua, explained to AP that they have deployed local and federal law enforcement agents, in addition to military units, on the perimeters of the mine to ensure safe transit in the area since cases of unrest had previously been registered in the roads to and from the mine, but not at the campsite.

However, Mr. Aparicio stated workers of the mining company have prevent them from accessing the interior of the mine, given that it is a private property.

According to the worker in touch with AP, security in the area began to deteriorate a month ago as different organized crime groups began to fight for control of the region. Apparently, the situation escalated last Tuesday when armed individuals physically assaulted security personnel upon their return from a break.

Miners work at the campsite 14 days on a row and then rest seven, while office employees work 10 and rest four.

The mountain range to the west of Chihuahua, in addition of being a mining region, is located 500km from the U.S. border and used to grow illicit substances. Currently, this area is disputed by the Sinaloa Cartel and the Juárez Cartel.

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