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Saturday, 11 April 2015

Doing business the Canadian way: McEwen Mining has a “good relationship” with Mexican cartel

In a recent interview on Business News Network, the CEO of McEwen Mining, Rob McEwen, made some revealing statements as to how his mining company conducts business in Mexico.
Rob McEwen on BNN

Discussing the circumstances surrounding the theft of $8.5 million worth of gold concentrate from his company’s mine in Sinaloa, Mexico, Mr. McEwen said, “The cartels are active down there…Generally, we’ve had a good relationship with them.”

What does it mean for a Canadian mining company to have a “good relationship” with a drug cartel?

In the interview, McEwen said: “If we want to go somewhere, we ask them. And they say ‘No, come back in a couple of weeks when we have finished what we are doing.'"

Sinaloa is home to the most powerful criminal organization in the Western Hemisphere. Members of the Sinaloa Cartel (also sometimes called the Pacific Cartel) are heavily sanctioned by the US Treasury Department.

In the interview, McEwen alluded to the likelihood that the theft, which involved eight masked and heavily armed assailants, was an inside job.

“This robbery was very well planned,” he said. “They knew the layout of the operation, and [had] knowledge [of] inside the refinery.”

The admission by Mr. McEwen of collusion with a drug cartel has received widespread attention in the Mexican press; in Canada, it appears to have been accepted as a normal business practice, despite the fact that the CEO has admitted that he is in direct communication with some serious criminals.

McEwen did not say if his company had been previously subject to extortion threats. The area where the mine is located is locked down by the Sinaloa Cartel – it is difficult to imagine this job being pulled off without their permission.

It is also unclear how Mr. McEwen’s admission of collusion with a major criminal organization fits with Canada’s Enhanced Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy to Strengthen Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad, which was announced in November of last year.

The Strategy’s document, titled "Doing Business the Canadian Way: A Strategy to Advance Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad", is worth a read. In it the Canadian government claims that “the updated Strategy makes clear the Government’s expectation that Canadian extractive sector companies reflect Canadian values in all their activities abroad.”

Is colluding with one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in the world “doing business the Canadian way”? Apparently, it is.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

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