Demanding higher wages and more benefits, 30,000 miners in Peru held strikes at several mines this week, with involvement from more than half of Peru’s 67 mining unions. The world’s leading silver producer, Peru also exports copper, gold and zinc, which has led to a high economic growth for this country. But workers still haven’t felt economic growth in their own pockets, and declared that companies should announce higher profit shares and better pensions before the strike ends.
In the past year alone, there have been numerous strikes at mines throughout Latin America. This marks the third national strike over the past 14 months in Peru. The national strikes in May and November led to $400 million in losses for at least one company, Codelco. Because of lost output and disruptions, these strikes receive some public blame for rising metals prices. However, dissatisfaction with the mining industry is nothing new in these areas. In 2006, it was proclaimed that there was a “mining crisis” in Peru, as violent protests against foreign investors were prevalent.
“Some people advocate raising taxes on the mining companies, while others have promoted voluntary cash donations on the part of foreign investors to placate the protesters,” Enrique Ghersi wrote that year. “But the social crisis that affects mining in Peru will not be resolved with taxes or alms, because it is the consequence not of the lack of state intervention but of its excess.”
This week, Peruvian government officials stated their belief that congress, not companies, should solve the problem. Since 2006, the government has considered allowing higher profit shares and pensions for miners, but little action has been taken. Current strikes affect several companies in the metals arena, including Southern Copper Corp., precious metals miner Compania de Minas Buenaventura SAA and the Peruvian unit of Chinese steelmaker Shougang.