August 31, 2018 / 8:59 PM / 24 days ago

Grupo Mexico could reopen San Martin mine after 11 years: official

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Miner Grupo Mexico could reopen the country’s largest underground mine in the first quarter of 2019, after it closed more than a decade ago due to a workers strike, a senior government official said in an interview.

The company began to refurbish the San Martin mine, which has copper, silver, lead and zinc, a week ago, said Carlos Barcena, the economy minister in the northern state of Zacatecas where the mine is located.

“The expectation is that it could start operating in the first quarter of 2019,” Barcena said.

A Grupo Mexico official with knowledge of the situation confirmed the plan, but was not authorized to speak to press. A company spokeswoman for the company declined to comment.

Operations in San Martin were suspended in July 2007 due to a labor conflict with the powerful National Miners Union (SNTMMSRM) run by Napoleon Gomez, now an incoming senator.

In 2005, before the mine was mothballed, San Martin produced about 8,000 tonnes of copper and 19,000 tonnes of zinc.

Earlier this year, seeking to end the dispute, a group of workers on strike from the mine agreed to allow a different group to represent them, the National Federation of Independent Unions (FNSI).

Last week, the government body responsible for solving labor conflicts decided to end the strike at the request of the FNSI workers.

However, a spokesman for the prior union, SNTMMSRM, said they would file a legal challenge to the resolution. In a press conference on Thursday, Gomez said that the “real miners were still on strike.”

Analysts at Monex said that the startup of operations could help boost Grupo Mexico’s annual sales 1 percent.

Reporting by Noe Torres; Writing by Christine Murray; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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