September 26, 2013 / 6:42 PM / in 4 years

Nationwide strike in Peru not seen affecting mining output

LIMA, Sept 26 (Reuters) - A 48-hour nationwide strike in Peru likely will not affect mineral output from Peru, although many union mining workers picketed in Lima on Thursday to protest changes to a pension program, union and company officials said on Thursday.

The mining strike is part of a broader workers’ demonstration against President Ollanta Humala that filled the streets of Lima, Peru’s capital, streets with thousands of protesters on Thursday.

Labor leaders confirmed that unions representing workers at least at four operations - Southern Copper’s Toquepala mine, Shougang Hierro Peru’s iron-ore mine, Buenaventura’s Antapite gold mine, and Newmont Mining’s Yanacocha gold mine - were participating in the strike, which started early on Thursday.

But production at any of the mines will not likely be interrupted, either because of company back-up plans or because many workers were staying on the job, union leaders and company officials said.

“Production continues,” the union leader of Yanacocha, Juan Guillermo Navarro, said by phone from a protest.

Navarro said just 50 union members from a workforce of 1,800 at the Yanacocha mine were away from work protesting.

Mining union workers told Reuters they oppose a government decree passed this year that they say broadens the number of beneficiaries in a mining pension program, diluting eventual payments.

“We hope the state takes us into account,” Navarro said. “If we are ignored we will have to call another assembly and discuss more radical measures.”

Ricardo Juarez, the secretary general of the national mining workers federation, said he did not know by Thursday afternoon how many workers total had joined the strike.

Julio Ortiz, the union leader at Shougang, said 1,078 workers out of about 1,200 total had left the mine to take part in the strike.

“This is not affecting production because it was something that was forecast,” Raul Vera, Shougang’s country manager, said.

Southern Copper also said it was prepared, and it was implementing emergency measures to maintain output levels at its Toquepala mine.

Labor leaders representing workers for Freeport-McMoRan’s Cerro Verde mine, silver and zinc miner Volcan and Southern Copper’s Cuajone mine and Ilo refinery said they agreed to take no part in the strike .

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