An indefinite national strike by mine workers in Peru has spread to half the industry threatening to disrupt global supplies of metals such as copper, zinc and gold after weekend talks with the government failed of which Peru is a leading global exporter.
Workers from 33 of 70 mining unions joined the strike, including employees of Southern Copper Corp, Doe Run Resources Corp and Pan American Silver Corp, Mining Federation secretary general Luis Castillo said in a phone interview from Lima. The walkout began at midnight Monday with miners seeking a greater share of profits and better pensions as surging metal prices generate record earnings for producers. Peru is the world's largest producer of silver, the third-largest in zinc, copper and tin, and ranks fifth in gold. Minerals represent 62% of the country's exports which in 2006 reached 24.7 billion US dollars. Peru's Labor minister said production so far hasn't been affected but union leader Castillo said that "more and more mines are joining the strike" with no talks planned between the unions and the government. Workers at Southern Ilo smelter began the work stoppage on Sunday and on Monday were jointed by Southern's Toquepala and Cuajone copper mine, two of Volcan Cia Minera SA's five zinc-lead mines, precious metals producer Cia de Minas Buenaventura SAA, and Shougang Hierroperu's iron-ore mine, said Castillo, whose Lima-based group represents 74 unions and 28,000 of Peru's 100.000 mine workers. Southern Ilo smelter is operating because not all workers joined the strike, said company spokesperson Alberto Giles. The smelter produced 322.188 tons of copper in 2006. Southern, the world's fifth-largest copper producer, belongs to Grupo Mexico SA. Operating normally are Newmont Mining Corp's Yanacocha gold mine, St Louis-based Doe Run Resources's La Oroya polymetallic smelter, the Antamina copper-zinc mine and Xstrata plc's Tintaya copper mine, Labor Minister Susana Pinilla said on Monday. "This strike isn't backed by the workers," Pinilla told Lima-based Radioprogramas. "What's more important is that it isn't having an impact on production."