The workers of Codelco They began this Wednesday the announced national strike in the divisions of the state mining company in rejection of the closure of the Ventanas smelter, with which they seek to reverse the decision of the government and the corporation’s board of directors.
“Through this just struggle, we will achieve our great objective, which is to allow Fundición Ventanas to continue smelting wealth and progress for Chile, in a sustainable and responsible manner with people and the environment,” said a statement from the National Board of Directors of the Federation of Copper Workers (FTC).
Copper prices fell sharply on Wednesday to break the mark of 4 dollars per pound and the future contract was trading at 3.92 dollars despite the start of the mobilization, which also registered barricades and protests at the accesses to the Andina and Windows.
The measure was decreed in rejection of the decision of the board of directors of the state mining company to decree the closure of the Ventanas Smelter, after repeated episodes of environmental contamination, which have affected the communities of Quintero and Puchuncaví, in the Valparaíso Region. The Government has stated that it will maintain the dialogue with the Codelco workers who are still unemployed.
President of Sonami: “This strike is not only a test for Windows, but also for the strength of the workers”
First thing in the morning from Ventanas, the president of the FTC, Amador Pantoja, corroborated that at the national level all the divisions are unemployed, which translates into 50,000 workers including contractors. “I reiterate that the Federation exists in this country, it is one of the most important in Chile and today we have all of Codelco paralyzed and that shows that we still have a lot of strength in the union world,” he assured.
The union leader explained that for each day on strike 25 million dollars are lost, therefore, “if they had already reached an agreement, we could have solved the situation in Ventanas.”
According to Pantoja, the smelter needs investment to continue processing copper concentrate. “To stop the strike we need a point of balance, we want them to take responsibility for their decisions because they have been wrong. We invite the government, the board of directors and everyone at Ventana to talk, we do not harm anyone, we only seek what is fair” Pantoja explained.
Regarding the construction of a mega smelter, the union leader pointed out that they are against it because it will involve privatizing the state company. Looking at him, Amador Pantoja explained that it would imply the termination of functions of other foundry plants and “we are not available to privatize Codelco.”
Windows foundry closure due to environmental contamination
The closure of the cast iron windows was taken after a new episode of air pollution on June 9, which affected 115 people, most of them schoolchildren, and forced the closure of schools in the area, as has been repeated for decades due to pollution in the area.
This industry smelts copper concentrate, a powder with 30% copper that must be smelted to obtain high-purity copper cathodes (ingots).
“We don’t want more environmental sacrifice zones,” leftist President Gabriel Boric said last Friday. “As a Chilean, I am ashamed,” added the president, announcing the progressive closure of the plant.
The environmental organization Greenpeace described this area as the “Chilean Chernobyl” after in 2018, due to a serious contamination episode, some 600 people from Quintero and Puchuncaví went to medical centers with atypical clinical symptoms, such as vomiting blood, headaches, dizziness, paralysis of the limbs, in addition to strange welts on the skin of children.
(With information from AFP)