IndustriALL Global Union Mexican affiliate Los Mineros is calling for an independent enquiry into a toxic spill earlier this month that caused serious environmental damage at one of the world’s largest copper mines. IndustriALL, which is campaigning for sustainable economic policy, supports the call.
The spill at the Cananea copper mine earlier in August pumped 40,000 cubic meters of toxic mining acid into a nearby river. Mexican mining giant Grupo Mexico placed the blame for the toxic spill for the accident on an outsourcing company. Moreover, instead of warning the population of the environmental damage, Grupo Mexico is reported to have deliberately covered up the incident.
Grupo Mexico acquired Cananea in 1989 after the mine was privatized. Since then, billionaire owner German Larrea has failed to show any concern for worker safety or the environment, making Cananea one of the most dangerous mines in the country.
In 2007, members of Los Mineros went on strike over health and safety and environmental concerns. The company announced it had 2,000 contractors ready to work as soon as the strike was brought to an end. The three-year strike ended when police occupied the compound, firing tear gas from helicopters and using force against the workers who were peacefully occupying the mine.
The 2007 a strike took place just one year after Grupo Mexico’s Pasta de Conchos mining disaster which left 65 workers dead. To this day, 63 bodies have not been recovered.
In an unexpected turn of events, the Mexican Congress last week urged the government to cancel Grupo Mexico’s concession to operate the mine.
IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Fernando Lopes slams the mining company's lack of action:
This sums up all that is wrong with Mexico’s mining industry: the unbridled greed of giant corporations, their disregard for worker safety and the environment, their irresponsible use of outsourcing, as well as the unconditional support they typically receive from successive neo-liberal governments. There must be an independent enquiry to find those responsible for this environmental tragedy.