Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network
Red de apoyo sobre salud ocupacional en las maquiladoras
Contact: Garrett Brown: 510-558-1014 or 510-622-2913
Final Health & Safety Report for Cananea Copper Mine Released Amid Government Intervention and Police Violence at the Mine
The Final Report of the independent health and safety survey team which evaluated the Grupo Mexico copper mine and processing plants in Cananea, Mexico, in October 2007 was released in English and Spanish today. The Final Report includes an appendix with the full text of the report of the Mexican Labor Department (STPS) investigators who inspected the facility in April 2007.
Both the STPS report and the Final Report from the MHSSN document serious safety and health-related hazards at the giant open-pit mine and the related processing plants. The STPS report (pages 7 and 8) includes a list of 72 corrective actions - including fixing brakes of 10-ton and 15-ton cranes and reassembling dismantled dust collectors in the Concentrator buildings - which were not implemented in the three months after the inspection and before the current strike began.
The MHSSN survey team of eight occupational health professionals from Mexico, Colombia and the United States interviewed 70 miners and conducted lung function tests with these workers on October 6-7, 2007. The team also toured the struck mine and inspected the adjacent processing plants.
Among the findings of the MHSSN survey team were: worker exposures to 10 times the Mexican regulatory limit of crystalline silica (which can cause silicosis and lung cancer) in the Concentrator buildings; exposure to high levels of sulfuric acid mists; machinery with unguarded moving parts; serious electrical hazards; and inadequate employee training and medical monitoring. Elevated levels of respiratory illness were discovered in the lung function tests and the on-site consultations with the team's physicians.
On January 14th, Grupo Mexico announced that it has contracted with two international health and safety consultancies - DuPont and Safety Solutions International - to conduct a survey of the Cananea mine. The reported goal of the survey is to return the mine to the "optimal conditions of health and safety" that existed, according to Grupo Mexico, prior to the strike.
"The conditions in the mine - as seen both in our survey and the STPS' April inspection - were anything but optimal," declared Garrett Brown, coordinator of the MHSSN and the survey team. "In fact, the working conditions in Cananea were a clear and present danger to the health and safety of the mine's workers. Any honest, professional evaluation of this workplace will identify literally dozens of hazards - we will be closely watching whether DuPont and Safety Solutions act to protect the health of the workers, or to protect the reputation of the mine operator."
Brown called upon Grupo Mexico to publicly release the complete inspection reports and all recommendations given it by DuPont and Safety Solutions, promised by the end of January. "A sanitized summary of the consultants' workplace survey will not give Mexican society any confidence that Grupo Mexico actually recognizes its responsibility to protect the lives and health of its employees," Brown stated.
In its Bulletins #002 and #003 (January 11th and 12th), the STPS announced that it would conduct "extraordinary inspections" of the mine when it returns to production. STPS Secretary Javier Lozano Alarcon also announced on January 15th that he would personally inspect the Cananea mine next week.
"Given the hazardous conditions in Cananea, the STPS has a lot of work to do," Brown declared. "The first order of business should be verification that the 72 hazards in its own April 2007 report have been corrected, which was clearly not the case in October. Grupo Mexico cannot be allowed to continue risking the safety and health of its employees with impunity, and with the complicity of government agencies sworn to protect workers," Brown charged.
English and Spanish versions of the MHSSN Final Report, including photographs of workplace hazards, are posted on the MHSSN website: