Union Leader to Pay US$54 million to Mine Workers
The Federal Board of Conciliation and Arbitration (JFCA) declared that Mexico’s National Union of Mining, Metallurgical, Steel and Similar Workers (SM) will be responsible to repay a debt for the 226 workers of the Cananea mine, all of whom were beneficiaries of a trust created in 2005.
Consequently, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, General Secretary of the Union, was instructed to pay US$54 million plus interests accrued to these workers. María Eugenia Navarrete Rodríguez, President of JFCA, highlighted that neither Mexico’s mining industry nor Grupo México, Minera Cananea or Scotiabank are responsible for this payment or for claims made by the union.
After 16 years of the Pasta de Conchos tragedy where 65 mine workers lost their lives, disputes between the union and the corporation persist. Gómez Urrutia deems the firm as responsible whereas Grupo México rejects all allegations and claims that Urrutia is taking advantage of its position in Congress and trying to elude his responsibility of paying the workers.
In a statement released by Grupo México the company expressed that “the debate already passed the courts and has resolved that Napoleón Gómez Urrutia is to indemnify the mine workers $US54 million plus interests.”
“No press campaigns, lies, road blocks and twisted publications, like the ones Gómez Urrutia has been financing for months, can obstruct the fulfillment of the judicial resolutions that order him to pay the miners” reported Grupo Mexico.
Amid Grupo México and the union’s discussion, the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) has taken the first steps to recover 63 bodies of the 65 that lost their lives in this disaster, one of the promises made by President López Obrador during his electoral campaign.
The rescue project is divided in three construction phases. The first one will take approximately 14 months focusing on building the mining shafts. The second phase will focus on setting-up access ramps and connecting tunnels, expected to take 20 months.
Prior efforts to help Cananea miners
Mexico's government and Grupo México reached an agreement to create a US$28.98 million fund to provide pensions to around 1,000 miners from Cananea who have been denied a fair retirement. The pension is expected to be monthly and last 10 years starting in January 2022. In addition, the government announced its plans to address other issues in the region.
The initiative to grant a pension to the miners of Cananea is part of the Justice Plan for Cananea of President López Obrador, which seeks to improve the quality of life in the region that has been affected by irresponsible mining activities.
Authorities announced that the Justice Plan also includes developing a study, to detect possible resident´s health damages due to Sonora River´s pollution caused by the spill from Grupo México’s mine. In addition, Sonora´s authorities have announced that it handed over control of the General Hospital of the Zone to the IMSS in order to provide better health services to the entire population, including non-beneficiaries.
López Obrador said that there is the possibility that there will be a meeting between miners, companies and the government to decide what is the best way to benefit the municipality. "Reconciliation will take time, but we are not ruling it out," López Obrador said.