300 workers in Uruguay employed by Canadian mining company Orosur risk losing their jobs if the country’s only gold extraction and processing company closes down its operations.
The situation at the mine, located in Minas de Corrales in the Rivera Department, is deteriorating. Currently, 180 workers are drawing unemployment benefits, and according to the company they are to be joined by a hundred more at the end of the month.
On 14 July, Loryser, one of the company's subsidiaries, applied to Uruguayan courts for permission to reach an arrangement with its creditors. At the same time, Orosur also recognised the need of a credit line of US$ 8 million to pay off debts and to continue its operations.
The mining company also said that it needs an authorisation from the National Directorate for the Environment (Dinama) in order to exploit a third site, currently listed as being in an area with a significant environmental impact.
IndustriALL affiliate's in the country, the National Union of Metal Workers and Allied Branches (UNTMRA), is working with the company and the government to reach a solution. The situation is critical for the community around the mine, as employment is scarce.
The company should not have waited this long to announce a decision with such an impact. Natural resources are finite, and the company has known that this day would come, and yet there is no contingency plan for the town.
In addition, the contract the company has with the Uruguayan government requires it to set up a fund for the conversion of the town into a food processing centre, which it has not been done,
said Eduardo Burgos, member of UNTMRA’s leadership.
On 10 August UNTMRA will organise an open assembly to urgently find a solution. The assembly will be attended by government representatives, including the industry and labour ministers.
There needs to be a viable solution before the end of the month, or the mine will close. We will ask the industry and labour ministers to help find a way forward. One suggestion is that workers are guaranteed payment from the unemployment fund for one year, during which they would be given training. We need to make sure that the workers are not left without protection,
IndustriALL's regional secretary, Marino Vani, said:
We support our affiliate and its demand for a settlement which would allow jobs to be saved and taking into account the interests of the population of Minas de Corrales. Uruguay needs a strong industrial base to support its development and the government must have an active policy to prevent closures like this.