Spain: Coal miners in street battles, strikes over jobs

June 16, 2012

Striking coal miners blocked roads in northern Spain with burning tires and fired missiles at riot police on June 12 after officers tried to disperse their protest with tear gas and baton charges.

They were among the 8000 miners who kicked off a four-day strike on May 23 against the right-wing government's decision to slash subsidies to the sector.

Some miners have remained underground for 23 days, but thousands of others in the northern provinces of Asturias and Leon have staged mass street protests in defence of the coal industry and decent jobs.

"We have been using lengths of pipe to aim skyrockets, slings, golf ball launchers and even a homemade device to fire potatoes to keep the police away," said Gerardo Cienfuegos, 39, who has been a miner since he was 16.

Mining has been an integral part of the economy of the two northern provinces since Roman times.

Miners are concerned that government cuts, including a reduction in mining subsidies from 300 million euros (about $380 million) to 110 million euros, will mean the end of their industry.

Mieres Mayor Anibal Vazquez, who was elected after working 27 years underground, said: "The cuts proposed by the government will mean the death of mining here and the end of hope for many youngsters new to mining."

[Reprinted from the Morning Star.]

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