MEXICO CITY, July 1 (Reuters) - A five-hour shootout between Mexican marines and dozens of members of the Zetas drug gang left 15 gunmen dead on Friday in the latest outburst of drug violence to hit the central mining state of Zacatecas.
A group of suspected Zeta gang members in the small town of San Jose de Lourdes attacked a convoy of marines patrolling the area. Six marines were injured, 15 suspected cartel members were killed and another 17 captured, the marines said.
"Naval personnel were attacked with firearms by a group of organized criminals hiding in a safe house. They repelled the aggression, starting a firefight that lasted five hours," a statement from the marines said.
The town is just outside of Fresnillo, home to the world's largest silver mine that is owned by a company FREX.MX with the same name. In Fresnillo, drug cartels blocked roads with burned-out vehicles, according to local media reports.
More than 40,000 people have died in Mexico over the past four years since President Felipe Calderon deployed security forces to the streets to attack powerful cartels head on.
Zacatecas has been a hot spot for violence, with the Zetas -- feared as one of Mexico's most brutal gangs -- battling rivals for smuggling turf.
Mining investment keeps flowing into Mexico, the world's top silver producer and major miner of copper, but some companies are beginning to worry about the violence and rising security costs. [ID:nN14279863] (Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Eric Walsh)