MAC: Mines and Communities

Mexican strike shuts world's top silver pit after "illegal" arrests - Paro en mina de plata más grande luego de detención "ilegal"

Published by MAC on 2008-12-22

Following what trade unionists claim is the illegal freezing of their bank accounts, and arrests of two of their leadership, workers at four Mexican metallic mines came out on strike earlier this month. Reportedly another fifty mineworkers were arrested on December 13th.

The government claims that the leaders have stolen funds provided for the privatisation of Grup Mexico's Cananea copper operations, and that the theft charges were made by workers' themselves.

The Mexican mineworkers' union counter-claims that the arrests are aimed at closing-down the union and are related to the appointment of a former Grupo Mexico employee to the post of Secretary of the Interior.


Campaign for Labor Rights []

Reprinted from ILC International Newsletter No. 316

17th December 2008

The National Union of Mineworkers, Steelworkers, Steelmakers and Allied Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSSRM) is being subjected to fierce repression by the fraudulent government of Felipe Calderon and by the Grupo México, the mining monopoly that seeks to destroy the union. What is the mineworkers" crime? It"s defending the right of workers to decide who their leaders should be without government interference; it"s defending their collective-bargaining agreement.

On December 4, Carlos Pavon Campos, Secretary for Political Affairs of the mineworkers" union, was arrested in Mexico City. He was immediately transferred to the city of Monclova in the state of Coahuila (in the north), on charges of alleged fraud.

The day before, Juan Linares Montufar, president of the union"s Main Committee of Vigilance, was transferred to Mexico City. Linares Montufar had been arrested in the city of Morelia in the state of Michoacan.

A few weeks earlier, the government "froze" the bank accounts of the union. On December 9, a judge ruled "Illegal and non-existent" the mineworkers" strike in Cananea, Sonora. Those workers, together with mineworkers in Sombrerete and Taxco have been on strike for over a year to defend their working conditions and the existence of their union. Grupo Mexico has simply refused to negotiate with the union. Today [Dec. 13] the media report that 50 mineworkers in Cananea were issued arrest warrants.

The crackdown against the union began under the Fox administration (2000-2006) through the creation of "white [scab] unions" in opposition the National Union of Mineworkers. Legal charges were brought against Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, president of the union, who was forced to seek political asylum in Canada. The crackdown has intensified under the government of Felipe Calderon and has reached a level of absolute arbitrary force, outside legal norms, with the appointment by the government of Francisco Gomez Mont Urrueta, a man who had previously been the legal assessor of Grupo México, that is, the very company set on destroying the union.

The government aims to break the will of those fighting to defend the freedom of association and workers" conquests. The government does not tolerate the union"s demand that the circumstances of the deaths in the Pasta de Conchos mine (in the state of Coahuila) be clarified and the union"s demand for the recovery of the bodies (still buried deep underground) of the deceased workers in this mine.

All these repressive actions taken against the mineworkers" union are an indicator of what the government is preparing with the labor counter-reform it seeks to impose in 2009 (as announced by the Secretary of Labor). This new law aims to eliminate labor rights, to exert even greater pressure on the unions to impose individual and test contracts and to facilitate lay-offs.

The defense of the Mexican mineworkers" union requires the support of mineworkers and of all unions and union activists the world over. An urgent solidarity response is needed on an international with these embattled mineworkers.

We urge you to demand of the Mexican government:

* The immediate release of Carlos Pavon Campos and Juan Linares Montufar, leaders of the Union of mineworkers. * The withdrawal of all arrest warrants against mineworkers in Cananea. * The return of the bank accounts of the union. * The strict observance of union autonomy and independence * No to government interference in the internal affairs of the union * Observance of ILO Conventions 87 and 98. Please send your petitions to:

LIC. Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa, Official Residence de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, CP 11850, Distrito Federal, MÉXICO Telephone and fax: (55) 50935300 LIC. FERNANDO Francisco Gomez MONT Urueta Bucareli 99, 1er piso Colonia Juarez CP 06699 México DF, Fax: (00 52) 5 55 546 5350, (00 52) 5 55 546 7388 DR. José Luis Soberanes Fernández PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Please send a copy of your letters to: and to: Salome Herber Aguilar: and also please send a copy of your letter to

Illegal arrest of Mexican mining union leaders

International Metalworkers' Federataion (IMF) / News article

5th December 2008

MEXICO: On 3 December, the Mexican National Miners and Metalworkers Union (SNTMMSRM) was the victim of a further attack. Juan Linares Montufar, president of the union's Consejo General de Vigilancia y Justicia (General Vigilance Council) was arrested in Michoacán, in yet another indication of the continuing persecution of miners, metalworkers and steelworkers by the authorities.

But that's not all. Carlos Pavón Campos, the union's Political Secretary was also detained on Thursday 4 December. Arrest warrants have been issued for at least two members of the SNTMMSRM executive committee, with more expected. The union said the arrests are illegal and "were carried out on the instructions of Germán Larrea Mota Velasco, owner of Grupo Mexico, who has yet to be brought to justice for killing miners".

Last week, the government illegally and arbitrarily froze more of the union's bank accounts, with the clear intention of stifling the union's fight for trade union freedom and autonomy on behalf of workers at Sections 65 (Cananea, Sonora), 201 (Sombrerete, Zacatecas) and 17 (Taxco, Guerrero), who have been on strike for 16 months.

The union says the arrest of the leaders is related to the appointment of Fernando Gómez Mont as Secretary of the Interior. "He used to be an employee of Grupo Mexico, of Germán Larrea Mota Velasco, and it seems he still works for them. He was part of the company's criminal law team and is using his new position to violate the most basic legislation and to treat social groups and leaders unjustly."

The union is calling on all trade unions and social organisations in Mexico and the rest of the world, especially IMF affiliates, to protest these cowardly and malicious attacks and urges them to form a united front against this persecution, which is not directed only at miners, metalworkers and steelworkers, but against the whole of the organised workers' movement. An injury to one is an injury to all. This is our watchword at this time of government attacks on trade unionism.

We demand the immediate release of Juan Linares Montufar and Carlos Pavón Campos, a demand also made by the IMF, and the immediate unblocking of all the union funds frozen by the government.

Penoles, Fresnillo Mines Shut After Arrests, Strikes

By Andres R. Martinez and Hugh Collins


5th December 2008

Two Mexican mines operated by Industrias Penoles SAB, the world's largest silver producer, and two others run by a subsidiary were shut after workers went on strike to protest the arrest of two union officials. Silver pared its losses in New York.

Production at the Sabinas and Madero mines in Zacatecas state was halted after the Mining and Metal Workers Union "illegally" called on members to stop work after the arrests, Penoles said today in a statement to the Mexican Stock Exchange. Fresnillo Plc, a unit of Penoles, said in a separate statement that its Fresnillo and Cienega mines were also closed. Fresnillo is the world's largest primary silver mine.

The Mexican Attorney General's Office arrested union Communications Director Carlos Pavon Campos and Security Chief Juan Linares Montufar this week after workers filed complaints alleging the union mishandled a $55 million miners' fund created by Grupo Mexico SAB. The government also froze some of the union's bank accounts.

"This began as a problem between Grupo Mexico and the union," Rodrigo Heredia, an analyst with Ixe Casa de Bolsa SA, said by telephone. Now, it's a "conflict between the union and the industry."

Grupo Mexico Strike

Union workers at Grupo Mexico's Cananea copper mine went on strike in July 2007 to push for higher wages and improved safety conditions. The mine reopened from January to April, when workers walked out again. The stoppage has cut net income by more than $650 million, according to the company.

Silver prices pared losses of as much as 4.1 percent today after the strikes began. Silver for March delivery fell 9 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $9.43 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Penoles mines silver, lead, zinc and copper at the Sabinas and Madero mines, and the Cienega mine contains gold and silver precipitates.

Calls by Bloomberg News to Pavon Campos's mobile phone were not answered. Union spokeswoman Carmen Romero said Pavon Campos and Montufar weren't available to comment.

More than 20 strikes have occurred at mines in Mexico since 2006, including three at Grupo Mexico projects. The walkouts have cost Mexican mining companies more than $2.5 billion, according to the Mexican Mining Chamber of Commerce.

Living in Canada

Union Secretary General Napoleon Gomez Urrutia fled to Vancouver to avoid three arrest warrants tied to the investigation. He has denied the allegations.

Gomez Urrutia's warrants stem from complaints filed in three state courts in 2006. The federal attorney general's office began the investigation into Pavon Campos and Montufar more recently, after new complaints were filed by workers.

The mining chamber and Grupo Mexico have said the union refused to lift strikes at Cananea until the arrest warrants for Gomez Urrutia were overturned.

The union confirmed in an e-mail today that workers held strike in four states, including Zacatecas, Tamaulipas, Durango and Coahuila. The union did not name which companies were affected.

Penoles shares rose 3.53 pesos, or 3.3 percent, to 111.28 pesos at the close on the Mexican Stock Exchange today. The shares have fallen 49 percent this year.

Fresnillo shares dropped 17.6 pence, or 12 percent, to 127.1 pence in London trading. The shares have declined 76 percent since trading began in May.

Grupo Mexico's mines haven't been affected by today's strikes, spokesman Juan Rebolledo said in an interview. The union represents workers at Mexican mines operated by companies including ArcelorMittal, Ternium SA, Tenaris SA and Goldcorp Inc.

Mexico strike shuts world's top silver pit

By Mica Rosenberg


5th December 2008

MEXICO CITY - Striking Mexican workers have halted production at the world's top silver mine and two major zinc mines after the government arrested union officials, the pits' owner said on Friday.

Workers laid down tools at the massive Fresnillo silver deposit in the central state of Zacatecas late on Thursday, owner Fresnillo Plc , the precious metals subsidiary of Penoles , said in a statement.

The Fresnillo mine produced some 33 million ounces of silver and close to 26,000 ounces of gold in 2007. Penoles, which controls the company's base metals business, said the Madero and Sabinas zinc mines in Zacatecas were also shut down.

The strikes began after authorities detained senior mining union members on fraud charges. "These actions were taken in retaliation for the arrests of two union leaders and the union has said it is going to stage various strikes," a Penoles spokesman said.

The country's mining chamber said it was still checking to see if other companies were affected by the labor action.

Fresnillo's two other silver mines, La Cienega in Durango state and La Herradura in the state of Sonora, were operating normally. ArcelorMittal, the largest steelmaker in Mexico, said there were no work stoppages at its installations.

The union claims it is being unfairly targeted for its independence and for dragging out a 16-month strike at the giant Cananea copper mine owned by Grupo Mexico.

The government has frozen union funds and in protest union members stopped work on Friday at mines in four Mexican states. "The government is trying to suffocate and decapitate the union to protect the interests of Grupo Mexico," the union said in a statement.


Mexican authorities arrested union officials Carlos Pavon and Juan Linares on Thursday. The leaders are accused of stealing funds given to the union after the privatization of Cananea, the country's top prosecutor said. "The charges were brought by the workers themselves (against the officials) demanding the money owed to them," Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora told reporters.

The head of the union, Napoleon Gomez, is living in Canada to avoid arrest on these same charges, which he denies. In Gomez's absence, Pavon is the union's main spokesman and at the forefront of the strike at Cananea and two other mines belonging to Grupo Mexico.

The three long-running strikes began last year over complaints about health and safety conditions but have been complicated by bad blood between union leaders and the company.

Steelmaker Altos Hornos de Mexico, AHMSA, also accused union leaders in May of misusing $1.5 million and trying to extort more funds from the company. "There was fraud because they demanded money to give out to the workers but never distributed it and then there was extortion because they threatened to go on strike unless we gave them more money," AHMSA spokesmen Francisco Orduna told Reuters.

AHMSA, the country's third-largest steel producer, said most of its operations were unaffected by Friday's strike. A small iron mine owned by AHMSA did shut but only 300 of the company's 18,000-member workforce participated in the walkout. (Additional reporting by Jason Lange in Mexico City and Gabriela Lopez in Monterrey; Editing by Christian Wiessner)

Ilegal Detención a Dirigentes del Sindicato Minero Mexicano

FITIM / Noticias

5 Diciembre 2008] VS /

México. Una nueva agresión al Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Metalúrgicos y Similares de la República de México se ha vivido en esta semana ya que dos de sus dirigentes fueron detenidos de forma ilegal.

El pasado 3 de diciembre fue detenido en Michoacán el compañero Juan Linares Montufar, Presidente del Consejo General de Vigilancia y Justicia del Sindicato, y el jueves 4, el compañero Carlos Pavón Campos Secretario de Asuntos Políticos del Sindicato.

Estas detenciones evidencian que aún continúa la persecución por parte de las autoridades contra los trabajadores mineros, metalúrgicos y siderúrgicos de México. El Sindicato minero ha manifestado que estas detenciones son ilegales "solo obedecen a las instrucciones de Germán Larrea Mota Velasco, dueño de Grupo México y asesino hasta hoy impune de mineros".

Cabe señalar que la semana pasada el gobierno impuso la ilegal y arbitraria congelación de cuentas bancarias sindicales, con el evidente ánimo de asfixiar las luchas del Sindicato por la libertad y la autonomía sindical, a favor de los huelguistas de las Secciones 65 de Cananea, Sonora, la 201 de Sombrerete, Zacatecas, y 17 de Taxco, Guerrero, que se han sostenido ya por 16 meses.

El gremio explica que estas nuevas acciones contra los dirigentes tienen relación con la llegada a la Secretaría de Gobernación de Fernando Gómez Mont. "Se trata de un personaje que ha sido, y por las evidencias sigue siendo, un empleado del Grupo México, de Germán Larrea Mota Velasco, que ha operado en el equipo de abogados penalistas de esta empresa y que ahora, en la nueva posición de poder, la está ejerciendo, en violación a las más elementales normas de la legalidad y el trato justo a los grupos y a los dirigentes sociales".

El Sindicato Minero llama a todas las organizaciones sindicales y sociales de México y del mundo, especialmente a las afiliadas a la FITIM a protestar contra esta nueva cobarde y perversa agresión y los exhorta a unirse en un solo frente, ya que esta persecución no está dirigida únicamente contra los mineros, metalúrgicos y siderúrgicos, sino contra absolutamente todo el movimiento obrero organizado. Lo que daña a uno, daña a todos, es la palabra de orden de este momento de agresiones oficiales contra el sindicalismo.

Exigen la inmediata liberación de Juan Linares Montufar y Carlos Pavón Campos, demanda que también se adhiere la FITIM, así como también la inmediata liberación de todos los fondos sindicales bloqueados por este gobierno en los bancos.

Sindicato para en minas zinc y plata mexicana Peñoles

5 de diciembre, 2008

Por Mica Rosenberg


MEXICO DF - Trabajadores pararon la producción en México de la mina de plata más grande del mundo y en dos importantes productoras de zinc en protesta por la detención de dos líderes sindicales, dijo el viernes Peñoles, la empresa propietaria.

Peñoles dijo que las afectadas son sus unidades de zinc Madero y Sabinas y la mina de plata Fresnillo, operada por su subsidiaria de metales preciosos Fresnillo Plc, cuyas acciones cotizan en la bolsa de Londres.

En el 2007, Fresnillo produjo unas 33 millones de onzas de plata y cerca de 26,000 onzas de oro. Las instalaciones afectadas, ubicadas en el norteño estado de Zacatecas, pararon desde la noche del jueves luego de que las autoridades arrestaran a dos líderes del sindicato minero.

"Industrias Peñoles confía en que las autoridades mexicanas intervendrán para detener estos paros ilegales y hacer prevalecer el estado de derecho", dijo Peñoles en un comunicado.

Autoridades mexicanas arrestaron el jueves al secretario de Asuntos Políticos del sindicato minero, Carlos Pavón, y a Juan Linares, presidente del Consejo de Vigilancia y Justicia de la agrupación, acusados de fraude.

La Ciénega y La Herradura, las otras dos minas de Fresnillo ubicadas en los estados de Durango y Sonora respectivamente, continuaban operando con normalidad, mientras que ArcelorMittal, la mayor productora de acero en el país, dijo que en sus instalaciones no se registraron paros.

El sindicato asegura ser blanco de las autoridades por su independencia y por mantener una huelga de 16 meses en el gigantesco yacimiento de cobre Cananea, propiedad de Grupo México.


Los líderes están acusados de robar fondos entregados al sindicato tras la privatización de Cananea, explicó la fiscalía general. "Es en función, precisamente, de la denuncia que hacen los propios trabajadores por la disposición de los fondos que correspondían a estos trabajadores", dijo a periodistas el procurador general, Eduardo Medina Mora.

El principal líder del gremio, Napoleón Gómez, vive en Canadá para evitar el arresto por cargos de corrupción, que asegura son fabricados. "Se trata de acciones punitivas contra dirigentes del sindicato minero, en las que es notorio el abuso de poder que se ejecuta desde las esferas oficiales con la intención de acabar con el sindicato minero", dijo la agrupación en un comunicado.

En su ausencia, el detenido Pavón es el principal portavoz sindical.

La siderúrgica Altos Hornos de México (AHMSA) dijo el viernes a Reuters que presentó en mayo una denuncia contra líderes sindicales por no haber distribuido 18 millones de pesos que la empresa les dio para los trabajadores.

Además, dijo que poco después los líderes pidieron más dinero y amenazaron con iniciar una huelga si no se les entregaba. "Hubo fraude porque pidieron dinero para entregárselo a los trabajadores y no se lo entregaron", dijo Francisco Orduña, un portavoz de AHMSA. "Hubo un intento de extorsión porque nos amenazaron que si no les dábamos más dinero nos hacían una huelga", añadió.

AHMSA dijo que la mayoría de sus principales operaciones no estaban afectadas por el paro. Las acciones de Peñoles cayeron el viernes un 3.28 por ciento en la bolsa mexicana, a 111.90 pesos.

(Reporte de Mica Rosenberg, escrito por Adriana Barrera; Editado por Marcel Deza)

Paro en mina de plata más grande del mundo, en tercer día en México

6 de diciembre, 2008


MONTERREY, México - Un paro laboral en la mina de plata más grande del mundo en protesta por la detención de dos líderes del sindicato minero entró el sábado en su tercer día en México.

Trabajadores mantienen parada el Fresnillo, en el norteño estado de Zacatecas, desde el jueves en la noche, tras ser arrestados ese día el secretario de Asuntos Políticos del sindicato, Carlos Pavón, y el presidente del Consejo de Vigilancia y Justicia del gremio, Juan Linares, acusados de fraude.

El gremio y la minera propietaria de Fresnillo, Peñoles, dijeron el sábado que el paro continuaba. "Todos los mineros siguen en huelga", dijo una fuente del sindicato.

Un portavoz de Peñoles informó que las unidades de zinc Madero y Sabinas, también en Zacatecas, y en donde también los trabajadores pararon operaciones desde el jueves, permanecían cerradas. En el 2007, Fresnillo, operada por la subsidiaria de metales preciosos de Peñoles, Fresnillo Plc, produjo unas 33 millones de onzas de plata.

La fiscalía general dijo que Pavón y Linares están acusados de robar fondos entregados al sindicato tras la privatización de Cananea.

Pero, el sindicato minero asegura ser blanco de las autoridades por su independencia y por mantener una huelga que ya lleva 16 meses en el gigantesco yacimiento de cobre Cananea, propiedad de Grupo México.

El líder del sindicato, Napoleón Gómez, vive en Canadá para evitar ser arrestado por cargos de corrupción, que asegura son fabricados.

En ausencia de Gómez, Pavón es el principal portavoz sindical.

(Reporte de Robin Emmott)

Anuncia sindicato minero más marchas y medidas de presión Continuarán con los paros escalonados de manera indefinida en las secciones 62 con sede en Fresnillo, 165 en Sabinas y la sección 95 en Guadalupe.

Irma Mejía / Corresponsal

El Universal, Zacatecas

6 de diciembre, 2008

Los mineros afines a Napoléon Gómez Urrutia anuncian marchas y nuevas medidas de presión para la próxima semana, informó David Navarro Rodríguez, secretario general de la sección 62 del Sindicato Minero.

Informó que ese fue uno de los principales acuerdos tomados con el líder minero exiliado en Canadá y los dirigentes seccionales, durante una videoconferencia realizada este viernes.

Adelantó que para la próxima semana se tiene prevista una reunión en la Ciudad de México, con el objetivo de que los dirigentes sindicales discutan y acuerden las nuevas medidas de presión que se tomen a nivel nacional.

Por lo pronto, dijo que continuarán con los paros escalonados de manera indefinida en las secciones 62 con sede en Fresnillo, 165 en Sabinas y la sección 95 en Guadalupe. Aunado el apoyo que recibirán de los sindicalizados de la sección 201, en la Mina San Martín, en Sombrerete, la cual se mantienen en huelga desde julio de 2007.

David Navarro aseguró que en la Minera Fresnillo de Grupo Peñoles hay 745 sindicalizados, pero en conjunto con las demás secciones podrían sumar cinco mil trabajadores. Por otra parte, durante una conferencia de prensa, integrantes del Frente Social por la Soberanía Popular (FSSP), encabezados por José Santos Cervantes, manifestaron su apoyo al sindicato minero y anunciaron que el próximo martes realizarán una marcha en la que participarán representaciones de cuatro secciones mineras.

El movimiento será en rechazo por la detención de Carlos Pavón Campos y como Juan Linares Montúfarv, secretario de Asuntos Políticos, y presidente del consejo general de Vigilancia y Justicia del Sindicato Nacional de Mineros, respectivamente; así como por la congelación de las cuentas sindicales.

Cervantes aseguró que este respaldo es porque sí permiten que el Gobierno Federal trate de desaparecer a este sindicato minero, significará un golpe para todos los demás sindicatos, por tanto, advirtió que los representantes de las 30 organizaciones sociales y sindicatos que integran el FSSP darán la batalla.

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