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.”
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.
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.”
— María Paula Romo (@mariapaularomo) July 27, 2020
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.