MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Latin American Update

Published by MAC on 2006-08-20


Latin American Update

20th August 2006

The government of Peru is moving closer to exempting multinational mining companies from paying increased taxes on their windfall profits, substituting instead "voluntary" contributions to "social welfare." Understandably, the proposal has aroused the ire of many Peruvian citizens.

Fifty six weapons and many rounds of ammunition have been seized from the "security" force employed by Newmont at its Yanacocha gold mine in Cajamarca province, following the killing of a farmer during a peaceful protest against alleged contamination of water supplies and failure by the company to provide jobs.

Our Latin American editor, Luis Claps, reports from the border region of Chile/Argentina where local communities are stepping-up their moblisation against the world's biggest gold producer, Barrick of Canada.

BHPBilliton has closed down the world's biggest copper mine, Escondida (in which Rio Tinto, Mitsubishi and the World Bank/IFC have minority shareholdings), as a strike by the main trade union enters its third week.

The workers are demanding a 10-13 per cent pay rise while the company is offering just three per cent over three years, claiming this to be "the best remuneration and labour conditions offer in the history of Chilean mining" [Financial Times August 19-20 2006].

Last week BHPBilliton chalked up a threefold rise in profits for the first half of the year, as against January-June 2005. Its share price also rose last Saturday, due to a 3% increase in the copper price as a result of the mine closure.

Buyers clearly believe that the strike will soon be broken and BHPBilliton will reap benefits from the whirlwind it's helped to sow.

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