177417 Cananea cooper mine: Is it safe for workers?

Monday, October 27, 2008: 2:50 PM

Ingrid X. Zubieta, MPH , UCLA - Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program, Los Angeles, CA
This study identified and evaluated hazards at the open-pit Copper mine in Cananea, Mexico, where twelve hundred miners began a strike in July, 2007. Last October, a bi-national team of occupational health and safety volunteers organized by the Maquiladora Health and Safety Support Network (MHSSN) conducted a workplace health and safety assessment and lung function tests with 68 of the striking miners, participated in a four-hour walk-through visit of the mine, and collected a bulk dust sample that was later analyzed for content and particle size distribution. The findings revealed that occupational health and safety remains neglected in this mine. A lack of preventive maintenance, a failure to repair equipment and correct visible safety hazards, and a conspicuous lack of basic housekeeping have created an environment where workers have been exposed to high levels of toxic dusts and acid mists and required to operate malfunctioning and poorly maintained equipment. Semi-quantitative calculations indicated that workers in the Concentrator area are exposed to respirable quartz silica ten times greater than the Mexican Maximum Permissible Exposure Limit (LMPE) of 0.1 mg/m3. A comprehensive medical surveillance program has not been established by the company to determine the health status of workers. The OHS survey team concluded that serious health and safety hazards at the Cananea mine operation require immediate and long-term corrections to guarantee basic workers' rights and protect workers from both accidents and chronic exposures. Survey results and recommendations will be discussed within the sociopolitical context of labor relations in Mexico.

Learning Objectives:
Describe health and safety hazards related to the mine industry Discuss multinational occupational health and safety efforts to improve working conditions in an international setting Recognize the importance of cross-border union solidarity to promote workers’ rights in a global economy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was part of the ocupational heatlh and safety team that conducted the workplace health and safety assessment at the copper mine in Cananea.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.