Peru: trapped miners freed —and scapegoated

Nine informal miners were rescued April 11 after six days trapped in a tunnel at the Cabeza de Negro copper mine in Yauca del Rosario district, Ica province, Peru. President Ollanta Humala was on hand to greet them as they emerged—and in his public comments said the incident pointed to the dangers of informal mines. He said that informal mining companies that operate outside the law are “exploiting” workers, and that he will instruct the Public Ministry to toughen measures against them. The Cabeza de Negro mine was abandoned more than 20 years ago, but its entrance had never been dynamited as the law prescribes. In recent years, informal miners re-entered the tunnel, selling the copper on the gray market that is widely tolerated. Media reports emphasized that the miners were trapped by a cave-in triggered by an explosion they themselves had set. (AP, RPP, Andina, El, Spain, April 11)

The crisis at Cabeza de Negro comes weeks after a wave of protests by informal gold miners against a government crackdown paralyzed roads and led to clashes with police nearly across Peru. However, such disasters are by no means limited to the informal mining sector—as recent incidents in Chile and in Mexico demonstrate all too clearly.

See our last posts on Peru and regional struggles for control of minerals.

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