According to the US government, los Zetas are the most technologically advanced, sophisticated, and dangerous cartel in Mexico, a set of qualities that has also led them to become the most violent and feared. Formed back in 1999 when commandos from the Mexican army’s elite forces deserted ranks and became the armed forces for the Gulf Cartel, they then split off to start their own gang in 2010.

In the past few years they have taken control of Mexico’s Coahuila region in the north, along the border of Texas, and are now starting to thrive like never before. Los Zetas covertly entered the region, and under the threat of extreme violence for those who didn’t cooperate they swiftly brought every aspect of commerce, politics, and business under their control in less than three years.

This expansion was not undertaken to increase its drug trafficking or prostitution ring operations, but rather to enter into the business of coal mining.

The state of Coahuila is rich in coal, and mining the fuel offers los Zetas a rare chance to actually make money in a legal manner, as opposed to the normal rackets of drugs and sex trafficking.

The coal is mined through their own poorly paid workers, or bought at a low price from small miners, who are forced to sell their product. Los Zetas then resell the coal onto a state-owned company for a profit that is 30 times greater than the initial investment.

This setup is proving hugely lucrative for los Zetas, estimated to earn them around $25 million a year. Humberto Moreira, the former governor of Coahuila, said that the practice has even become more profitable than drug running.

Source: Mexico’s Most Feared Drug Cartel has Entered the Coal Mining Business

By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com