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Miners deserve better!

28 April, 2015To mark International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April, mining unions in seven countries in Latin America, representing over 130,000 mineworkers, are taking coordinated action to demand the ratification and full application of ILO Convention 176.

It is unimaginable that in the twenty-first century mineworkers are continuing to suffer such high rates of death, injury and illness, say the unions. Countries have a responsibility to ensure that the workers who extract the resources that are the lifeblood of modern economies can return from their workplaces safe and healthy.

Mining represents 1 per cent of the world’s workforce, yet accounts for 8 per cent of workplace fatalities, estimated to amount to 12,000 deaths per year worldwide, equaling an average of 32 per day.

In Latin America, the industry’s rapid growth has exceeded the capacity of many countries to regulate it. Hence the fact that in Colombia alone, 138 miners died in mining accidents in 2012.

ILO Convention 176 on safety and health in mines, adopted in 1995, is as relevant today as it was twenty years ago. It is an innovative and well-thought-out standard that represents the global consensus of the tripartite actors. Its provisions are such that they can be applied in any mining country. Unfortunately, only three countries in the region – Brazil, Peru and Uruguay – have ratified it.

Convention 176 establishes the foundations for sustainable mining. It is based on two key concepts: First, it is applicable to all mines and types of mining. Secondly, it puts health and safety at the heart of mine design, operation and maintenance.

Studies show that countries that have ratified Convention 176 have lower rates of accidents and illnesses compared to countries that haven’t ratified it.

Mining unions in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay, who are part of a regional mining network, stress the need for all countries in the region to ratify the Convention in order to establish a floor below which no country can fall as well as to eliminate unfair competition between countries and companies based on poor conditions.