Mine safety culture in Chile must change, says ICEM

The International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine & General Workers’ Unions (ICEM) yesterday called on the Government of Chile to radically change the procedural methodology it uses on mine safety once the imminent rescue of 33 miners at the San José mine near Copiapó in northern Chile is complete. The ICEM is also calling on the government of Chile to begin the process toward ratification of International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 176, the 1995 Safety and Health in Mines Convention.
In a letter to Minister of Mining Laurence Golborne Riveros, the 20-million-member global union federation called on the government to streamline workplace safety and health enforcement, now contained in several different ministries, into a single, autonomous agency “that has full powers and full technical capabilities to inspect and correct workplace deficiencies before accidents happen.”

The ICEM is also calling on the government of Chile to begin the process toward ratification of International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 176, the 1995 Safety and Health in Mines Convention. By adopting the global principles contained in Convention 176, Chile ensures that workers and their trade unions have a voice on safety matters and the ability to take action to prevent mine accidents. (The full letter can be seen here.)

“In a mine, when a trade union safety committee is engaged with the respective company and government representatives, the risks in that mine gets reduced dramatically,” said ICEM General Secretary Manfred Warda. “This is basic to Convention 176 but, unfortunately, is woefully lacking inside Chile’s mining industry.”

The ICEM called on Chile’s government to consolidate ministerial safety investigatory bodies into a fully-staffed independent rule-making agency that has judicial and other powers to ensure safe and healthy workplaces. In the letter, the ICEM states that creation of such an agency can also serve as the mechanism to implement and enforce the global mine safety standards contained in Convention 176.

The ICEM commended Chile’s government for the intensive rescue to save the lives of the 33 San José miners, but reminded that massive work awaits both politically and administratively to prevent such disasters from happening in the future.

The Geneva-based ICEM, composed of 467 trade union affiliates in 132 countries, is the representative global body for some 70 national mining unions in as many countries. The ICEM has a global campaign underway pressing on governments of resource-rich nations to ratify ILO Convention 176.

(Mineweb)

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