Article from Mexican Labor News & Analysis
Published by UE International.

Date published: May, 2016

Web version:


By Dan La Botz

Three miners were killed—crushed—when enormous heavy-duty
tractors collided around 6:30 a.m. on May 4 at the Buena Vista de Cobre mine in Cananea, one of the world’s largest and most productive copper mines. It is owned by Grupo Mexico.

Who was responsible for the accident? The dead miners—Hanssel Guadalupe Suárez Sarmiento, Germán Bernardo Acevedo Carrera and Fabián Villa Caro—can give no testimony. Grupo Mexico says that it provides workers with regular safety training and that it regrets the “tragedy.”

The National Union of Workers of the Mining and Metal Industry (SNTIMM), affiliated with the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), which represents the 1,800 workers at the mine, quickly announced that the accident was the result of “human error.” A supervisor, it said, had apparently parked a vehicle in a prohibited place. The CTM
union’s announcement of “human error” suggests that the workers driving the tractors might be responsible. That is, the union blames the supervisor and workers, while making no criticism of the company or of the government, both of which have an obligation to regulate safety in the mine.

Those who work in health and safety know that there are no “accidents” and that “human error” is not the cause of the illnesses, injuries, maimings, and deaths that occur in the workplace. Corporations and governments have a responsibility to create the conditions and enforce the standards that make work safe. Unions have a responsibility to speak out on behalf of workers when the government or employer fails to do so. A real union has the power to force company and government to make work safe.

Cananea’s workers used to be represented by a real union, the National Union of Mining and Metal Workers (SNTMMRM) whose president Napoleón Gómez Urrutia called an earlier mining accident “industrial homicide” and named the company and government as responsible. He was forced to flee the country to avoid government prosecution on false
charges and leading that union from Canada. The Mexican government, working with Grupo Mexico, colluded to eliminate that union, and to legitimate the company union.Those are the parties responsible for the three deaths.

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