MAC: Mines and Communities

Peru: Eight miners killed following safety abuses in Casapalca - Las muertes en Casapalca

Published by MAC on 2009-02-23

Peru's Casapalca mine has a record of being one of the most dangerous in Latin America. Further tragic evidence of this came in early February, when eight miners went to their deaths.

The Gubbins family which owns the mine employs contracted labourers at a pittance in pay, and is notoriously anti-union.

For previous posts, please see:

Policeman killed in protests at Casapalca (2008)

Cuatro muertos en protestas en Casapalca (2007)

See also:


Tragedy in Peru: eight miners killed after labor safety and environmental abuses

16th February 2009

Peru is one of the most important mineral producers in the world. The rich soil of the Andean mountains contains vast reserves of copper, silver, lead, gold, zinc and other natural resources.

Instead of becoming a tool to improve the lives of Peruvians, mining has actually become a curse for millions of poor workers and farmers, and the cause of human exploitation for the last five centuries.

In 2008 only, Peruvian mining exports reached $19.2 billion dollars, but very little profits have been reinvested in the Andean mining towns: most profits of mining in Peru go to Lima and overseas. The government refuses to collect higher royalties fearing to scare away foreign investors. Along the extraction of minerals, entire towns and regions are being destroyed and thousands of miners and their families are poisoned and abused.

These tragic facts were widely ignored when the Bush administration implemented the Peru Free Trade agreement. It was said that the Peru FTA contained labor and environmental protection, making into a "model" for free trade. Even then candidate Barack Obama celebrated it as a "well structured" deal. Most mining companies in Peru are owned by American and European investors.

Peru is a country where the corrupted and rich get away with crime, and the law mean nothing when it comes to make profits, especially in mining and oil industries. Of course the poor is defenseless against such abuse. For instance, La Oroya, a mining processing town - where I grew up - is one of the top ten most polluted places in the world.

Eight miners killed

That reality of abuse and lawless corruption in Peru is more obvious now, after 8 mining workers were killed this week: on Sunday February 8, five mining workers were buried alive in the Casapalca mine after a tunnel collapsed and trapped them 656 feet below the earth.

Workers and union leaders say this accident was caused after a dynamite explosion, which was illegally activated on top of the workers, and that the number of victims could be bigger than expected. But the Casapalca Company is saying "it was an ecological event", a dubious version backed by the Alan Garcia government.

The next day, three miners died from inhaling toxic gas in the Raura mine.

"The miners died after breathing calcium sulfate gas when they were excavating in a mine in Oyon province, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) northeast of Lima, RPP radio reported."

So far no one has been prosecuted or arrested in both cases.

Casapalca abuses

Miners in Casapalca, which is located 62 miles east of Lima and at 4,500 meters (14,625 feet) above sea level, often work 12-hour per day for less than 350 soles or $116 per month, according to union workers.

Casapalca has kept over 1,000 workers on temporary contracts that prevent them from getting a share of the profits, as required by law. In 2007 over 300 workers were fired after unionizing, which originated a protest and the dead of 5 people, including a police man.

The five men killed last weekend were "temporary" employees hired by Geminis SAC, a third-party agency that doesn't comply with labor regulations. The Ministry of Labor is now prosecuting Geminis and its managers, but not the rich Casapalca owners who are the direct responsibles.

The abuses are described well by the blog IncaKola News:

"Casapalca is run by the Peruvian Gubbins family, and has a long history of treating its workforce like slaves. In June last year this report highlighted how the workforce was made to work seven days a week for a basic monthly salary of 675 Soles. However even that low number is whittled down through various deductions and becomes 343 Soles (about U$110) in take home pay.

To add insult to injury, the company then charges each of its workers between 100 and 150 soles per month for living quarters (and by that I mean 100 soles for a 2m X 2m shoebox just big enough for a bed)."

The Peruvian government has sent labor inspectors to the mine, but they hardly create any effect in the ways the mine is managed. The powerful and influential National Mining, Petroleum and Energy Society expelled Casapalca as a member in 2007.


RPP radio reports that the rescue of the dead miners has become difficult due to weather, and that six workers survived. The area is really hard to access and the lack of safety in the mine is permanent.

My father worked in mining companies for several years, which is why I have visited Raura several times during school summer breaks. My memories are still fresh: my father would explain when I witnessed corruption cases, abuses against locals and workers, and the corrupted life in the little town where workers lived.

A new owner is now in Raura, but I've been told things haven't changed much. Raura is a sad place to work or even live: miners face extremely harsh conditions above 15,000 feet over the sea level. People live in shacks without heating system in the freezing Andean highlands, while sewage channels run in the middle of narrow alleys falling in the rocky hills just atop of mines.

The surrounding landscape is really beautiful, but I remember seeing entire lakes being polluted. The sadder part is some of that water would later run into the Amazon basin or the Pacific Ocean.

Labor abuses in Peru

Mario Huamán, the Secretariat General of Peru's biggest workers union -CGTP- has said to Ideele radio station, that his union has requested the government to penalize labor and security abuses of Casapalca and other companies, but they don't expect any real response:

"We have presented proposals in order to increase legal actions and enforcement against abusive mining and construction companies, which are the most dangerous labor sectors. But we get more of verbal statements, there are not actions taken. [...] When construction workers die due to negligence, there is not legislation to fine the employers, there is total impunity. [...]

We have proof with names, that over 4,500 workers have been fired after joining a union. That is why there were protests in Casapalca in 2007, with 5 people being killed.

All Casapalca employees are hired by third-party agencies without any kind of labor rights, and their living, health and security conditions are outrageous. This has been proved in the last two years and this company continues violating the law as nothing happens. [...] President [Alan Garcia] repels any protest against this injustice but he is blind to the businesses abuses.

Strike is planned

This strike was planned before the accidents in Casapalca and Oyon. Most likely, the strikes will carry violent protests in the Garcia administration doesn't take action.

Peruvian miners plan to vote Feb. 21 on whether to strike over job cuts and delayed legislation on pensions and profit-sharing, a union official said.

Miners will decide whether to strike on March 15 to protest the firing of about 6,000 workers at units run by Newmont Mining Corp., Gerdau and Renco Group, Luis Castillo, general secretary of the Mining Federation, said in a telephone interview. Congress has postponed a vote on a bill to improve pensions and profit-sharing, he said.

"We're holding talks with Cabinet Chief Yehude Simon, but we're not making any progress," Castillo said. "The crisis is hitting Peruvian miners hard."

Mining companies including Glencore International, Volcan Cia. Minera and Pan American Silver Corp. are shutting mines in Peru and slashing jobs because of slumping metals prices. Copper, zinc and lead and have all fallen at least 35 percent since the start of July as the global crisis eroded demand.

Peru's Cabinet Chief Yehude Simon -a former member of the leftist MRTA guerrilla- was appointed by Alan Garcia as a way to cool down the increasing social unrest. And others think that he would become a useful tool to prevent the possibility of a leftist victory in the upcoming 2011 elections. So far, Simon has neglected workers and Garcia's popularity is still bellow 20% in most regions of the country.

The majority of mining and construction workers are Indigenous Native peoples, like most Peruvians. And the mining workers usually come from rural populations, dragged to work in mines because of unemployment, false promises, lack of other skills and the extreme poverty caused by centralist policies of Lima that keep Andean towns undeveloped.

In memoriam

Lucio Chipana Sivipáucar (32), Édgar Villarreal Bustillos (44), Alex Taipe Huamaní (22), César Herrera Coica (20) y Carlos Corpus Cabrera (35) and the three miners of Raura.

5 Peru miners buried alive after explosion

Israel Ruiz

Living in Peru,

9th February 2009

Five Peru mining workers were buried alive early Sunday after a tunnel collapsed and trapped them 200 meters (656 feet) below the earth. It was reported that the accident took place in the Limean province of Huarochiri at El Carmen mine.

According to Casapalca mining company, the workers were buried alive after a "natural rock explosion" took place as the miners were extracting minerals. Those trapped in the mine have been identified as 32-year-old Lucio Chipana, Edgar Villarreal (44), Alex Taype (22), César Herrera (20) and Carlos Corpus (35).

While several brigades of rescue workers have been organized and working around the clock to rescue the miners, none of them have been located yet. Labor Minister Jorge Villasante affirmed that 17 tons of earth have already been moved in efforts to rescue the trapped men.

Se completó el rescate de 5 cadáveres de los mineros de Casapalca

13 de Febrero del 2009

Dos de ellos fueron rescatados el pasado jueves. Ministro de Trabajo afirmó que Osinergmin ya inició una investigación al respecto.

Los últimos tres cadáveres de los cinco mineros que murieron sepultados en un derrumbe en un socavón de la minera Casapalca fueron rescatados y se encuentran en la morgue de Lima, para los análisis de rigor.

El ministro de Trabajo, Jorge Villasante, señaló que el Organismo Supervisor de la Inversión en Energía y Minería (Osinergmin) inició una investigación sobre lo ocurrido y en dos semanas entregará un informe del caso. La empresa minera Casapalca aseguró días atrás que el derrumbe se debió a un "evento geológico" y no al uso irresponsable de explosivos.

Los mineros desaparecidos el sábado trabajaban bajo suelo, a unos 150 kilómetros de la superficie, en la construcción de un pique o chimenea vertical de 200 metros, que había sido verificado por Osinergmin en diciembre pasado, manifestó el gerente de administración de Casapalca, Alberto Alta.

Según la empresa, los mineros fallecidos estaban subcontratados por la empresa Géminis y, al igual que la totalidad de los 1 300 obreros que trabajan en su mina, estaban protegidos por un Seguro Complementario de Trabajo de Riesgo. La compañía minera Casapalca, ubicada en la provincia de Huarochirí, en la sierra de Lima, es una mina polimetálica que produce plata, cobre, plomo y zinc, con 22 años de operaciones.


Deudos recogen restos de mineros fallecidos

14 de Febrero de 2009

Los cuerpos de los cinco trabajadores mineros fallecidos en un derrumbe en el yacimiento de Casapalca, ubicado en la provincia limeña de Huarochirí, fueron ayer entregados a sus acongojados familiares que esperaban desde tempranas horas en las puertas de la Morgue Central de Lima.

La penosa labor para cumplir con los trámites legales, y después con el procedimiento de vestir los cadáveres, generó innumerables escenas de dolor entre los deudos de toda edad llegados desde Casapalca en un ómnibus cedido por la empresa minera. Las primeras víctimas del accidente del pasado sábado 7 en la mina El Carmen de Casapalca que fueron sometidas a la necropsia fueron Lucio Eloy Chipana Sivipáucar (32) y Jhonston César Herrera Ccoicca (20). Los cuerpos de ambos mineros llegaron a las 23.30 horas del jueves a la morgue de Lima.

Pese a las gestiones realizadas durante toda la mañana de ayer, los familiares de Chipana Sivipáucar y Herrera Ccoicca recibieron los restos de sus seres queridos aproximadamente a las 16.00 horas. El primero fue trasladado a su vivienda en Villa María del Triunfo, mientras el segundo fue llevado por sus padres a la provincia de Chanchamayo.

Edwin Chipana Sivipáucar, hermano de Lucio Eloy, manifestó que toda su familia está apenada por esta dolorosa pérdida. Mi hermano venía trabajando cinco años en la mina de Casapalca y con su muerte ha dejado en el desamparo a tres hijos. Ahora sólo queremos dar sepultura a nuestro hermano, expresó. Aunque la empresa Géminis y Casapalca han informado que mi hermano tenía los seguros que exige la actividad minera, nuestra familia espera que una vez superada esta etapa de dolor y duelo los responsables de las mineras cumplan con indemnizar a mi cuñada y a mis sobrinos con los beneficios de ley, aseveró.

Los familiares de Edgard Villarreal Bustíos (44), Álex Michael Taipe Huamaní (22) y Carlos Alberto Corpus Tadeo (35), víctimas que recién llegaron al borde del mediodía de ayer a la morgue, tuvieron que esperar hasta las horas de la noche para recoger los cuerpos de sus parientes.

No tenía experiencia

Cómo es posible que a mi joven hijo lo hayan enviado a trabajar a un pique exploratorio en Casapalca. Ese trabajo solamente lo hacen los mineros más experimentados. Mi hijo César recién estaba trabajando ocho meses en la mina, afirmó con lágrimas en los ojos su padre Julio Herrera Quispe. Él era alegre, trabajador y buscaba sobresalir. No logró estudiar por falta de medios, pero tenía muchas ganas de salir adelante. Mi hijo César era como mi amigo y ahora lo vamos a extrañar mucho en Chanchamayo, añadió.

Perú: las muertes en Casapalca


José De Echave

14 de Febrero 2009

Lo ocurrido en la localidad de Casapalca lamentablemente no es excepcional en el Perú. Este tipo de hechos se repiten año a año: por ejemplo, a lo largo del año 2008 se produjeron 64 accidentes como el de Casapalca en las minas peruanas.

Según el Ministerio de Energía y Minas, los 64 accidentes fatales del año pasado, fueron provocados por desprendimientos de rocas (37%), intoxicación, asfixia (14%), tránsito (9%), derrumbes de mineral (8%), acarreo (6%), ahogamiento por inundación (6%) y otros (20%).

En este contexto un tema que debe ser abordado es el de las empresas contratistas. La gran mayoría de accidentes fatales del año pasado (el 70%) correspondieron a estas empresas. Esto nos recuerda que la gran mayoría de trabajadores mineros en el país son precisamente de empresas contratistas y laboran muchas veces sin la capacitación necesaria y en algunos casos hasta sin los equipos y seguros obligatorios. Sin duda este es uno de los motivos de la inseguridad y precariedad que reina en muchas empresas del sector.

Todo esto viene acrecentando el malestar que se vive entre los trabajadores mineros del país y sus organizaciones sindicales. En los últimos años no ha cesado de aumentar el número de huelgas por empresas: el 2008 las paralizaciones superaron largamente el millón de horas hombre perdidas en el sector minero.

A esta situación se le agrega los recientes despidos que no dejan de aumentar como consecuencia del descenso de los precios internacionales de los metales de base: según fuentes de la Federación Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros del Perú, los despedidos en los últimos tres meses superan los 6,300 trabajadores.

En el tema de la seguridad en las minas se necesita un mayor esfuerzo de control y sanción de las autoridades del Ministerio de Trabajo y sobre todo un real compromiso de las empresas que deberían incorporar a los sindicatos para la mejora de los procesos internos. Por otro lado, si no se hacen mayores esfuerzos por abordar la problemática laboral que está a la base del incremento de las huelgas en el sector minero, las empresas serán testigos de un conflicto laboral que irá en aumento y acompañará a los ya conocidos conflictos socio-ambientales con las poblaciones vecinas.

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