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Peru’s government puts economic interests before miners’ safety

23 March, 2020Even though Peru’s government has introduced a curfew and state of emergency, mineworkers still have to go to work without any virus-protection measures. 

On 15 March, Peru’s government declared a 15-day state of emergency and introduced restrictions on movement in response to the health crisis caused by the coronavirus. 

Two days later, the Ministry of the Economy and Finance said that the measures do not include the mining sector, since it is considered an essential industry. It would therefore ensure that "critical operations continue with a skeleton staff and all the necessary health and safety precautions." The companies concerned can determine which employees and contractors constitute the skeleton staff.

However, IndustriALL affiliate National Miners’ and Metalworkers’ Union (FNTMMSP), say that large mining companies and other private companies are requiring their employees to work without the necessary health and safety measures, despite the risk of infection.

FNTMMSP secretary general Jorge Juárez say that hundreds of people working in the mines have yet to be evacuated:

"A number of employees are still at work because they have received financial incentives from employers in the form of bonuses. The big mining companies have not brought in safety measures and don't want to evacuate workers. On mining sites, there are no controls – nobody checks that these companies are being responsible and complying with the measures."

According to Juárez, many miners have pre-existing illnesses because they work in high temperatures, at altitude and are exposed to dust and contamination. This means that if infected, they are a high-risk group and should not have to keep going to work.

In a letter to Peru’s President, Martín Vizcarra, IndustriALL Global Union's general secretary Valter Sanches, raises concerns over the lack of health protection for miners during the spread of the coronavirus.

"We call on your government to take the necessary measures to help and protect your country's miners. They – like workers from various essential sectors around the world – are ready to play their part and make a huge effort. We want the miners to be able to return home safe and sound once the pandemic is under control."