Gina Rinehart’s mining boss in Ecuador arrested for weapons amid Aussie gold rush

by | Jul 29, 2020 | Business

The general manager of Gina Rinehart’s mining operations in Ecuador has been caught with a cache of illegal weapons. The arrest has stunned the expat community in the capital Quito where the likes of BHP, Newcrest, Hancock Prospecting and a slew of junior miners are enjoying a millennial “gold rush” as bullion prices hit records and drill results bode for enormously rich deposits of copper, gold, cobalt and other minerals. Michael West reports.

“You can’t go out in Quito without seeing Kangaroos,” the Australian miner tells Michael West Media. Kangaroos (pronounced Kan-gurus in Spanish) is the affectionate name for Aussies in Ecuador’s capital.

“Oh it’s full of Aussies,” he says. “At Z-Food (pronounced Zee-Food, a chic seafood eatery in the Andean capital) you see them all … BHP, SolGold, Newcrest, Hancock.”

Z-Food in Quito

That’s not counting the junior miners; Challenger Exploration, Tempus Resources, Titan Metals, even Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue is there.

As the price of bullion stampedes to record highs amid the ructions of the global pandemic, the Aussie miners who have flocked to the South American republic in droves are in high spirits. They are there for the copper too, the cobalt, platinum and palladium besides.

The drilling is spectacular. Canadian explorer SolGold – headed by an Aussie – recently reported 650 grams per tonne of gold in one drill hole.

Hanrine 

Shockwaves sounded through the expat exploration community this week though when the general manager of Hancock Prospecting’s top mining executive in the republic was apprehended by police for an illegal weapons cache. Carlos D Miguel was found with two pistols, a rifle, more than 9,500 rounds of ammunition.

Carlos Miguel is general manager of Hanrine Ecuadorian Exploration and Mining SA, a subsidiary of Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting, one of Australia’s top iron ore companies along with BHP, Fortescue and Rio Tinto.

The name Hanrine is a play on Hancock and Rinehart. A spokesman for Hancock in Australia said in a statement that Carlos Miguel held “the correct permits for these weapons which are approved by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Defence.

“Further, the weapons were properly stored in an appropriate storage locker. The article also did not mention, that Carlos is well trained in the usage of these weapons, and no accidents have occurred.

The safety of employees at Hanrine is very important to Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd (HPPL), and executives of HPPL visit the project from time to time, their safety while visiting Ecuador is also important.”

According to local press reports, Government Minister María Paula Romo has not disclosed why the Hanrine manager was being investigated:

“The police action was carried out by the Crime Unit with Weapons of the National Police. According to information from the Superintendency of Companies, the detainee has been, since 2018, the General Manager of a mining company, with a subscribed capital of USD 12,500. This company is, in turn, a subsidiary in Ecuador of an Australian company.

“The company has a concession for a copper mine in Imbabura, according to past press reports. This is a sensitive area due to the constant activity of illegal economies around irregular mining. The company’s corporate purpose is the “exploration and exploitation of mines, quarries and mining plants, whether owned, concessioned or under its control.” In addition to this company, the respondent appears as General Manager of an industrial security company and a dry cleaning business.”

Sources told us there was speculation among Australian miners that Hanrine and Carlos Miguel may have been subject to corporate espionage as the rush to secure prospective land and projects in the country has been intensely competitive. Hancock had no comment on this, and it remains entirely speculative and based on the view that, in the north of Ecuador, where Hanrine operates, quite near the border with Colombia, money laundering and drug trafficking are rife and foreign commercial operators are prone to have high levels of personal and corporate security.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael West

Michael West

Michael West established michaelwest.com.au to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences. You can follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelWestBiz.

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Over 2.9 million hectares of Ecuador (one of the most biodiverse countries on Earth) are now under mining concessions, representing around 10% of Ecuador’s total land area. Australia is Ecuador’s biggest mining investor, with companies like SolGold (not a Canadian company), BHP, Newcrest, Hancock Prospecting, Fortescue Metals, Titan and Tempus Resources pouring millions into copper and gold exploration.

    Around 1 million hectares of indigenous territories and 750,000 hectares of legally Protected Forests across the country are currently covered by mining exploration concessions. Mining exploration is threatening primary forests, wildlife, watersheds and local communities.

    Indigenous leaders opposed to mining have been killed, elected officials threatened with criminal and administrative charges for voicing their opposition; and mega mining is strongly opposed by the majority. The police, military and private armies act with impunity against any who oppose the spread of mining.

    And now Australian mining company directors are caught with military grade weapons and ammo caches- it really does seem like it’s the wild west out there Michael.

  2. Avatar

    These are disturbing but unsurprising reports, given the significant participation in the ruthless plunder of one of the most biodiverse regions in the world by our very own cowboys and girls, who no doubt respond to the inevitable clashes with indigenous communities and conservationists with their stock-in-trade manipulations and ruthlessness.

    Questions remain as to why Australian mining companies feel unconstrained by Ecuadorian government regulations and why their mining interests are so secure.

    Not only are indigenous communities threatened by the destabilising and destructive impacts of mining activities but also by the introduction and spread of Covid-19, according to the Rainforest Action Group’s website.

    It is a troubling irony that the erstwhile CEO of Fortescue, Neville Power, now heads up the NCCC.

    https://rainforestactiongroup.org/maps-of-mining-concessions/

    https://rainforestactiongroup.org/constitutional-court-could-save-australian-government-funded-reserve-in-ecuador-from-mining/

  3. Avatar

    Interesting how Australia’s mining moguls display their view of that which is not truly Australian. Australia is not over-loaded with fat-salaried gunmen as is portrayed by the Ecuardorian police, of course there is the odd occasional reported incident of some highly appointed dirt-scratching oaf running about loaded to the gills with alcohol and deadly weapons.

  4. Avatar

    “Rock Apes” with guns…great, just what we need. Since SFM is bought and paid for by one of them, there is zero chance he will grow a spine and reign these wannabe Escobars in.

  5. Avatar

    These are disturbing but unsurprising reports, given the inexorable ruthless plunder of one of the most biodiverse regions in the world by our very own cowboys and girls, who no doubt respond to the inevitable conflicts with indigenous communities and conservationists with their tried and true aussie methods.

    Still, there remain unanswered questions as to why Australian mining companies are unconstrained by Ecuadorian government regulations and why their mining interests are so secure.

    Not only are indigenous communities threatened by the destabilising and destructive impacts of mining activities but also by the introduction and spread of Covid-19, according to the Rainforest Action Group’s website.

    https://rainforestactiongroup.org/maps-of-mining-concessions/

    https://rainforestactiongroup.org/constitutional-court-could-save-australian-government-funded-reserve-in-ecuador-from-mining/

    It is a grim irony that the erstwhile CEO of Fortescue, Neville Power, now heads up the NCCC.

    https://www.businessnews.com.au/article/Nev-Power-to-lead-COVID-19-commission

    I doubt that the secretive PM&C commission will be overly focussed on humanitarian considerations so much as forging a pathway between suppression and the survival of the big miners.

  6. Avatar

    “Australian Interests Rape and Pillage South America” (or “Africa”) = “Dog Bites Man”.

    “British Interests Rape and Pillage Australia” is also common. See under Maralinga, Juukan Gorge, etc.

  7. Avatar

    Ms Rinehart, has stepped into a logistical nightmare in Ecuador. Twelve months ago, 2000 Ecuadorian troops and even more police had to remove up to 10,000 miners that had descended on “her” Imba 2 mining concession. Not a good look. Close proximity to Solgold’s Cascabel concession, itself surrounded by illegal miners and god knows what else, was not a wise strategic mining decision. What was she thinking? The place is a hotbed of forces beyond her control and makes mining the Pilbara in WA, a picnic by comparison.

  8. Avatar

    I believe Michael West (Media) is one of the most important news resources in Australia. However, actually reading the articles can become quite a task. PLEASE put some more time into syntax and editing.

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