01/26/13 – Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) this month has frozen the finances of the Coahuila-based mining company Materiales Industrializados, S.A. (MINSA) belonging to Armando Guadiana Tijerina for alleged ties to organized crime, along with at least 11 other, smaller mining companies operating in the Carbonífera region of Coahuila. Coahuila is Mexico’s top mining state; every year, Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission (Comisión Federal de Electricidad, CFE) purchases more than three million tons of coal from Coahuila mining companies as part of the regional development project Promotora para el Desarrollo Minero (Prodemi). Meanwhile, around a thousand MINSA workers protested outside the Sabinas municipal building on January 15, demanding that officials intervene to unfreeze the company’s assets, or risk losing more than 1,300 jobs.
Allegations of organized crime involvement in the region’s coalmines arose last October, when the son of former Governor Humberto Moriera Valdés was murdered in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, after which Moriera told Vanguardia that there were “narco-miners” in Coahuila financing organized crime. He reportedly named Guadiana and his brother José Luis as likely having ties to criminal organizations. Moreira, who has been widely blamed for a ballooning state debt during his tenure during which loans to the state were allegedly procured through false documentation, is currently living outside the country as a result of a grant awarded to him by the National Education Workers Union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, SNTE). Federal Deputy for Coahuila Alfa González expressed his concern for this, saying “It really worries us that the ex-governor has left the state without any problem, as though nothing had happened. It’s unfortunate.”
In addition to allegations of organized crime involvement, the mining operations are also reportedly under investigation for money laundering, and tax evasion, as well as failure to comply with federal regulations. The PGR has decided to withhold the names of the companies implicated in the alleged crimes as it works to gather evidence for an eventual trial. At the request of the PGR, the Labor and Social Security Ministry (Secretaría del Trabajo y Previsión Social, STPS) and Coahuila’s Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado, PGJE) are collaborating in the investigation. For its part, the STPS announced that it had planned at least 200 inspections of mines and wells between January and February of this year, which will involve examining mining permits, working conditions, and business licenses. To date, the STPS has shut down at least seven mines located in the Progreso and Múzquiz municipalities. The agency has not released the names of the companies responsible for these operations, but did say that it would publish its findings in late February or early March.
Guadiana has reportedly met with officials from the PGR’s Office of the Special Prosecutor for Investigation of Organized Crime (Subprocuraduría Especializada en Investigación de Delincuencia Organizada, SIEDO) in hopes of resolving the conflict. Since the freezing of his company’s accounts, he has maintained that there is no evidence whatsoever of irregularities in the company’s management linking it with any criminal group in the Carbonífero region.