Thursday, June 10, 2010


For years now miners at the Cananea Mine in Sonora Mexico have been on strike and have occupied the mine worksite. Last Sunday the Mexican State acted on behalf of the mine owners to clear the site of strikers. Here's the story from the Upside Down World website.

Mexican Police Attack Cananea Mine, Beating and Arresting Striking Miners
Written by Dan La Botz
Source: Labor Notes

As many as 2,000 Mexican Federal Police and Sonora State Police, supported by helicopters, invaded the Cananea copper mine Sunday night around 10 p.m., firing tear gas and attacking and beating miners who were defending the mine, according to news reports.

With the police having cleared the mine, managers from Grupo Mexico, the mine owner, took control of the facilities. The company reported that it had 2,000 “contractors” ready to go to work as soon as it was safe to do so.

A small fire broke out in a building on company property. The government says there were no injuries. An eyewitness report states that police fired guns and that one member of Local 65 of the Mexican miners union was wounded. No miners had any weapons, according to the report. The eyewitness adds that after the police took the mine, a meeting of the local union was immediately called, during which a Steelworkers member was speaking when police entered, breaking windows and firing tear gas without regard to the men, women, and children present. The USW, a U.S. and Canadian union, has supported the Cananea struggle for years.

The Mexican Miners and Metal Workers Union (SNTMMRM) has had control of the mine since it went on strike three years ago over health and safety issues. A Mexican court ruled in February that the strike was over and that miners had to leave the mine, but for four months they have refused to do so.

Police had reportedly went to the mine to execute arrest warrants against union leaders, among them Sergio Tolano Lizarraga, general secretary of Local 65, and Juan Gutierrez Ballesteros, delegate to the National Executive Committee of the union.

The strike at the Cananea mine, which once produced 40 percent of Mexico’s copper, has reportedly cost the company $1.35 billion. The strike forms part of a larger struggle between the independent-minded and militant Mexican Mine Workers Union on the one hand and Grupo Mexico and the Mexican government on the other.

As might be expected a group of people who have occupied their workplace for three years don't give up easily. Here's a report from Reuters about how the miners have regrouped and are trying to prevent scabs from entering the mine.
UPDATE 1-Mexican police and miners clash at Cananea mine
MEXICO CITY June 10 (Reuters) - Mexican miners clashed briefly with federal police on Thursday at the Cananea copper mine, raising tensions which could complicate owner Grupo Mexico's efforts to reopen the pit after a nearly 3-year-long strike was broken.

Two people were injured during the scuffle, which began when unionized miners tried to block contract workers from entering the mine to start repairs, the union said in a statement. A spokeswoman for the Federal Police said one policeman had teeth knocked out in the clash but denied any miners were hurt.

"There were three large buses of scabs (the company) was bringing into the property and there was a confrontation between the miners and the federal police," Manny Armenta, a visiting representative of the United Steelworkers union, said. The U.S. union has backed the miners.

Television images of the clash showed miners throwing rocks at police in riot gear and security forces responding by shooting tear gas guns at the workers on a road near the mine.

Federal Police took control of the mine in a late Sunday night raid after the union lost a long series of legal battles and a court ruled Grupo Mexico (GMEXICOB.MX) could fire the workers and reopen the copper mine, Mexico's largest.

The company has said the mine in northern Mexico near the U.S.-Mexico border could be running again as soon as the end of this year. [ID:nN09174805]

Cananea once produced 40 percent of Mexico's copper but has been closed since July 2007 when the strike began over health and safety concerns.

Grupo Mexico is planning to invest $3.8 billion in expanding Cananea to increase production there from 190,000 tonnes to 460,000 tonnes a year.

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