Peru sent tanker ships carrying food and fuel June 13 to its southernmost coastal region of Tacna, where thousands of residents are stranded by a general strike over mining royalties in neighboring Moquegua region. More than 5,000 Moquegua residents have blocked roads, including the Panamerican highway, cutting off access to the Ilo smelter and Cuajone mine of Grupo Mexico’s Southern Copper, the country’s largest producer. They are demanding a greater share of profits for local governments in the region. Several provincial and district leaders have started a hunger strike in support of the campaign.
Meanwhile, a strike over working conditions at Peru’s third-largest copper pit, Cerro Verde (Uchumayo district, Arequipa region), enters its fourth day. Leader of the mine workers union Leoncio Amudio said some 900 workers walked off the job June 10 at Cerro Verde. “The company has shown an overbearing attitude toward negotiations,” Amudio told Reuters. Freeport-McMoRan, the mine’s owner, told shareholders the government had declared the walkout illegal, meaning workers could lose their jobs if they do not return to work.
The National Federation of Miners, Metalworkers and Steelworkers of Peru (FNTMMSP) wants to pressure the country’s congress to pass a bill that would lift caps on profits that companies share with workers. President Alan Garcia supports the bill, but his APRA party has failed to line up enough votes in its coalition to ensure its passage.
Copper prices have doubled over the past three years, due partly to strikes that have cut output in Peru, Chile and Mexico. Peru is the world’s third-largest producer. (EFE, Trome, Peru, June 14; Bloomberg, Reuters, June 13; Reuters, June 11; La Republica, Lima, June 2)