As many as 2,000 Mexican federal police and Sonora state police, supported by helicopters, invaded the Cananea copper mine on the night of June 6, firing tear gas and attacking and beating workers who were defending the mine. With the police having cleared the mine, managers from Grupo Mexico, the mine owner, took control of the facilities. The company reported that it had 2,000 “contractors” ready to go to work as soon as it was safe to do so.
A small fire broke out in a building on company property during the confrontation. The government says there were no injuries. An eyewitness report states that police fired guns and that one member of Local 65 of the Mexican miners union was wounded. No miners had any weapons, according to the report.
The Mexican Miners and Metal Workers Union (SNTMMRM) has had control of the mine since it went on strike three years ago over health and safety issues. A Mexican court ruled in February that the strike was over and that miners had to leave the facility, but for four months they have refused to do so.
Police had reportedly been dispatched to the mine to execute arrest warrants against union leaders, among them Sergio Tolano Lizarraga, general secretary of Local 65, and Juan Gutiérrez Ballesteros, delegate to the union’s National Executive Committee. The strike at the Cananea mine, which once produced 40% of Mexico’s copper, has reportedly cost the company $1.35 billion. (Labor Notes, June 7)