Another fatal mining accident in Chile stresses the need for the government to ratify ILO Convention 176, on health and safety in mines.
A 22-year old man died on 21 October while carrying out maintenance work at La Escondida mine. The worker was employed by a subcontractor at the mine owned by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.
Rudy Henry Ortiz Martínez was not the first miner to die this year. Figures published by the Ministry of Mining and Chile’s National Geology and Mining Service (SERNAGEOMIN) show that six mining accidents resulted in fatalities in the country in the first six months of 2016. A miner in the El Abra mine in the Antofagasta region was killed in August.
According to SERNAGEOMIN, there is an annual average of 29 accidents involving fatalities in Chile’s mining industry, which is the country’s main industry. 2012 saw the lowest number, 22, while a staggering 41 were killed in 2010.
The ILO Convention 176 on Health and Safety in Mines has been in existence for more than 20 years. Adopted in 1995, C176 provides a framework for countries to create a safe working environment, placing obligations on companies and gives rights to workers.
However, so far only 31 countries have ratified C176. Some of the countries with the worst safety records, including Pakistan, China and Chile, have yet to ratify the convention.
IndustriALL Global Union is conducting a campaign to encourage countries to ratify C176. The Convention establishes a legal and inspection framework to promote safety in mines and a dignified working environment. It also gives workers the right to elect independent safety representatives and the right to refuse dangerous work.
Unions affiliated to IndustriALL in Chile have joined the campaign. On 7 October, IndustriALL Chile, CONSTRAMET, wrote to the Minister of Labour, Ximena Rincón, to ask her to ratify C176, in order to put an end to the series of accidents that have occurred at the Abra mine, the Transnational Freeport-MCMoran, CODELCO Chile’s Chuquicamata mine, ORICA Explosives and others.
The union and the Federation of CODELCO Supervisors met the Under-Secretary of Mining and agreed to hold a further meeting on Thursday 27 October between mining unions and the social welfare department (responsible for implementing health and safety law). They will discuss how the government might resume attempts to seek parliamentary approval for ratification of C176.
Jorge Almeida, IndustriALL regional secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean said:
IndustriALL Global Union believes that this new case of industrial homicide makes it impossible to understand the government’s failure to adopt ILO C176. Workers have a duty and a right to participate in ensuring safe working conditions and workplaces because, for them, it is a question of life or death.
Employers are responsible for providing safe working conditions and workplaces so that workers do not lose their lives in the very place where they come to earn a living.