More than 45,000 workers at the Chilean state-owned copper mining company Codelco, the largest in the world, joined this Wednesday in the national strike called by unions in protest against the closure of Fundición Ventanas, one of the 18 companies that turned Quintero Bay into Puchuncaví one of the most contaminated places in South America.
The stoppage coincided this Wednesday with the announcement made by Finance Minister Mario Marce of the signing of a reinvestment plan that provides for the injection of 30% of profits for four years and seeks to prevent Fundición Ventanas workers from losing their jobs. .
However, unions believe that this is an “improvised decision” by President Gabriel Boric, who already in the election campaign promised to end this and other industrial “areas of sacrifice” in which human life is not healthy.
The strike started on Tuesday, but only today it has gained greater dimensions. This comes just two weeks after a new spike in excessive pollution caused nearly 150 people, most of them children, to be intoxicated, forcing schools to close and bringing daily life back to a standstill.
BARRICADES AND ROAD BLOCKS
This morning, representatives of 26 unions gathered on the outskirts of the industrial complex, erecting barricades, setting fire to wood and tires, and trying to cut off traffic and access to the divisions of labour.
The decision by the state-owned company and the government “does not measure the social effects it has on a community that lived around this industry in Quintero and Puchuncaví Bay,” said the Federation of Copper Workers (FTC).
“The start of the closure (of Fundición Ventanas) is not supported or justified by any ‘technical, scientific or academic’ report that demonstrates the cause and effect relationship of the release of sulfur dioxide with pollution and intoxication of people,” he said. the organization in a statement.
The FTC said the closing resolution “does not touch any of the other companies in the Industrial Complex and therefore is arbitrary discrimination against workers at the public company.”
ENVIRONMENTAL SACRIFICE ZONE
Quintero-Puchuncaví Bay, 160 kilometers northwest of Santiago, was declared an “environmental sacrifice zone” in 1993, an unhealthy eight-kilometer stretch of beach where 18 factories are concentrated, dumping amounts of pollution into the atmosphere and sea that are not compatible with human life.
Since 2005, Codelco has invested about $156 million to comply with various environmental regulations, money that has not been used to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions, according to data provided by the government to the local press.
The government estimates that more than $1.15 billion would be needed to meet international standards.
Chile, the main world exporter of copper, is responsible for 28% of world production and counts on the presence of giants such as BHP, Anglo American and Antofagasta Minerals.
The current mobilizations take place in an international economic context marked by the decline of copper and the constant rise of the dollar, whose forecast is that it will continue to beat records during these days.
Mining, which represents about 10% of the national gross domestic product (GDP), plays a key role in the country’s economic recovery since the Covid-19 pandemic.