Peru miners strike for greater share of windfall metals income
July 1, 2008 - International Herald Tribune (The Associated Press)

LIMA, Peru: About 30,000 miners have gone on strike at many of Peru's biggest mines to demand a greater share of rising metals income, the country's largest mining union said Tuesday.

More than half of the country's 67 mining unions are participating in the indefinite work stoppage, which entered its second day on Tuesday, said Luis Castillo, chief of the National Federation of Mining, Metallurgy and Steel Workers.

Lima-based Southern Copper Corp., precious metals miner Compania de Minas Buenaventura SAA and the local unit of Chinese steelmaker Shougang are among the biggest companies affected.

Energy and Mines Minister Juan Valdivia said Monday that only 10 percent of the country's miners are participating.

Mineral exports helped Peru's economy grow by 9 percent last year. The country is the world's top silver producer and one of the biggest exporters of copper, gold and zinc — which have all reached record highs this year as global construction boomed and the dollar plummeted.

Yet many of Peru's poor complain they aren't seeing the benefits of growth. Violent protests broke out last month in Peru's southern Moquegua state — home to Southern Copper's Ilo refinery and smelter and its Cuajone mine — as workers sought a bigger slice of the nation's mining royalties.

Miners are now demanding that Peru's congress pass a bill to eliminate caps that limit mining companies from sharing more that 8 percent of their earnings with miners. Miners' salaries now vary widely.

Strikes have plagued some of Latin America's biggest mines in Peru, Mexico and Chile this year, driving world metals prices higher.

Copper prices alone have soared 28 percent so far this year. Copper futures for July delivery rose 0.1 percent, or 0.45 cent, to US$3.8825 a pound on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Monday.