In 1971, Mexico nationalized Cananeas massive copper mine. But in 1989, the government of the notoriously corrupt President Carlos Salinas de Gortari sold it for $525 million (in today's dollars) to German Larrea, the scion of the multinational mining company Grupo Mexico, and currently the country's third-richest man. His family's estimated net worth is $7.3 billion. Their assets include not only mining interests in Mexico and Peru, but also Mexico's largest railroad company and its second-largest movie theater chain.Tensions boiled over in February 2006, after an explosion at Grupo Mexico's Pasta de Conchos mine-in the northern state of Coahuila-left 65 miners dead. The union's General Secretary Napolen Gmez Urrutia accused the company of "industrial homicide," saying that the company had ignored workers' continued complaints about dangerous gas leaks.The soaring price of copper helped Grupo Mexico's shares rise during the strikes initial months, but by the second quarter of 2008 the company reported a 15.8 percent drop from the same period last year. Despite the company's claims that the Cananea mine "has the longest remaining mine life of any major open-pit copper mine in the world, based on current production levels," in late April, Grupo Mexico threatened to shutter the mine because of the strike. It offered strikers severance packages, but the majority refused, claiming the company cannot legally shut down a mine during an unsettled strike.
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