Mexico: Cananea copper strike enters fifth month

For more than four months 1,200 workers have been on strike at the Cananea copper mine in Sonora—the largest copper mine in Mexico and one of the largest mines in the world. Mexico’s Mining and Metal Workers Union is demanding that health and safety conditions be addressed at the mine. Most of the copper mined at Cananea is exported to the US for use in electronics equipment. Between Oct. 6-8 a binational delegation of occupational health professionals, organized by the US United Steelworkers union and the Maquiladora Health Safety and Support Network, toured the site at the invitation of the Cananea workers. A report, released Nov. 12, found serious occupational hazards and deliberate neglect of safety precautions on the part of Grupo Mexico, SA, the owners of the mine. The Cananea strike follows a February 2006 explosion at a Grupo Mexico mine that killed 65 miners.

The report found: “The conditions observed inside the mine and processing plants, and the work practices reported by the interviewed workers, paint a clear picture of a workplace being ‘deliberately run into the ground.’ A serious lack of preventive maintenance, failure to repair equipment and correct visible safety hazards, and a conspicuous lack of basic housekeeping has created a work site workers have been exposed to high levels of toxic dusts and acid mists, operate malfunctioning and poorly maintained equipment, and work in simply dangerous surroundings.”

Cananea has a long history of labor struggle, including a 1906 strike that helped ignite the Mexican Revolution and a bitter 1999 strike that ended in workers’ defeat. (Arizona IMC, Nov. 15)

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