Police and striking miners clashed at Grupo Mexico’s Cananea copper mine in Sonora state Jan. 11 after Mexico’s Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board (JFCA) declared a five-month-long strike there “non-existent” (illegal) and announced a provisional suspension of the National Syndicate of Mine, Metal and Similar Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM). Police called in to break up a picket line at the mine gate fired tear gas at workers who were trying to block the entrance with heavy machinery. Company spokesman Juan Rebolledo told Reuters: “They threw machinery at the police and that is why the tear gas was fired.” SNTMMSRM leader Napoleon Gomez, now in Canada to avoid corruption charges in Mexico, said that state and federal police were trying to occupy the mine. “They are violating both the constitution and labor law,” Napoleon told Reuters.
Initial reports claimed more than 30 injured in the clash and several miners arrested. The force of hundreds of state and federal police were mobilized to the mine within minutes of the JFCA ruling. Grupo Mexico said around 150 non-striking miners crossed into the mine after the clash.
The miners are protesting dangerous safety conditions at Cananea, the largest open-pit copper mine in the world, and the adjacent smelter. They charge the facilities have drastically deteriorated since the mine was privatized in 1990. The JFCA ruling also affects striking miners in the state of Zacatecas, and in the silver mining town of Taxco, Guerrero. (La Jornada, Jan. 12; Reuters, Reuters, Internationalist Group via Bay Area Indymedia, Jan. 11)