In the worst mine accident in decades, 27 people were killed in a fire in a gold mine in southern Peru. In the province of Arequipa, a circuit breaker in a small gold mine short-circuited causing the deadly fire.
This incident shows the danger faced by miners in Peru, the site of the world’s largest gold mines, and also some of the biggest copper mines. In addition, Peru has major deposits of lithium that are highly sought after by automobile companies for the production of electric cars. Just last year, 38 Peruvian miners were killed in accidents around the country, some of the highest numbers in decades.
The mine, owned by a small company called Yanaquihua is really just the middle man for an international corporation, the Swiss-based metal refiner, Metalor. That company is the Yanaquihua mine’s only customer.
The drive for profit pushes corporations such as Metalor and its Peruvian agent, Yanaquihua, to cut costs and get as much as they can from workers. While Yanaquihua was a mechanized mine, Metalor also purchases gold from so-called “artisanal” miners. These workers don’t employ modern technology for mining work or safety, and their work is often more dangerous. Ironically, Metalor is in the midst of a campaign to make gold mining safer.
There can be no safety while international corporations chase profits, which are always made at the cost of workers’ health and safety. The fire in Peru shows the dangers of a system of production, driven by profit-making, and the deadly toll it takes on workers’ lives.