After reporting on April 7 that $8.5 million worth of gold concentrate was stolen from his mine in Sinaloa, Mexico, Rob McEwen, CEO of McEwen mining, went on Business News Network and stated blandly that his company had a “good relationship” with a Mexican drug cartel.
|The Canadian team at McEwen
The comments were front page news in Mexico – and still are. They also received coverage in leading English-language outlets around the world. The startling admission was covered by the Associated Press. Outlets that picked up the story included ABC, CNBC, and the Daily Mail.
As of this writing, none of the major Canadian news outlets have reported on the admission. Neither has there been any comment from Canadian authorities or business organizations.
In response to the media firestorm occurring outside his country's borders, CEO Rob McEwen put out a press release on April 13, stating:
"Responding to numerous media reports, I want to make it perfectly clear, that neither I nor any member of McEwen Mining's management team in Canada or in Mexico have had any regular contact with, or have any relationship with, cartel members."
This alone should raise eyebrows. What does no "regular" contact mean, exactly? La politica has reached out twice to McEwen Mining for comment, but has yet to receive a response.
Mr. McEwen clarified that the “good relationship” comment referred to the surrounding communities, and not to the cartels. But this clarification repeats the odd caveat:
"Unfortunately, my use of the words, 'good relationship', was careless and has created the entirely false impression with Mexican media that we have regular contact with criminal elements in their society. This is simply not true. I wish to apologize sincerely for any misunderstanding my words may have caused.”
Again, there is an acknowledgment of cartel contact, just not that it was "regular". This should set off some alarm bells, but McEwen, in calling out the “Mexican media”, seems to know he’ll get a soft ride in Canada.
How does the CEO of a Canadian mining company in Mexico know that he is dealing with a cartel, yet claim to have no relationship with them? What sort of information is exchanged during the “irregular” contact between management and the cartel that does not allow for a proper relationship?
In Mexico, the revelations have put the governor of the state of Sinaloa, Mario López Valdez, on the hot seat. López Valdez has claimed no knowledge of any communication between the mining company and cartels, while at the same time acknowledging that he has had a close and productive relationship with CEO Rob McEwen.
“I’m a good friend of the mining executive, and he has never told me that his company asked permission or negotiated with cartels,” he said.
The fallout is continuing almost a week after the theft was reported. On April 13, Sinaloa’s Secretary of Economic Development, Aarón Rivas Loaiza, said that there was no extortion or any criminal pressure on businesspeople on the part of criminal organizations in Sinaloa.
(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)