Miner Threat in Spain
7th June 2012 - SchNEWS Issue 818
Around 8,000 Spanish miners took to the streets, and blocked them, in chaotic style this week. The actions are in protest against government plans to cut subsidies to the coal industry by 60%. While SchNEWS doesn't normally endorse fossil fuel subsidies, this is more about militant anti-austerity action than it is about the climate – the measures will completely devastate the sector in a country with an unemployment rate already hitting 25% overall, and 50% of young people.
In the latest chapter of Spanish civil unrest, the official indefinite strike involving 40 mines began on 23rd May, with ten miners staging an underground protest. By Monday (4th), coinciding with road transport strikes, rioting spread across the capital of Madrid and the region of Asturias.
Sixteen major roads and motorways were blockaded with one burning tire block causing a five-mile jam for over two hours. On another A-road, a truckload of wood was overturned on the asphalt.
Clashes with the riot police resulted in the chucking of rocks and homemade rockets, while elsewhere there were sit-in protests at mines and outside the government offices. Other 'unidentified people' pulled the wiring out of the CCTV at a tunnel on Huerna highway. After the inevitable running battles with the cops, just six people were arrested for public disorder offences.
The Civil Guard reported the seizure of large amounts of 'highly dangerous' materials including handmade rocket launchers, improvised slingshots, 15kg of rusty tips, ball bearings of various sizes and cans of gasoline. Government forces promised to come down with the full force of the law on protesters – but didn't succeed in putting them off.
True to their roots – miners are traditionally one of the most militant workers groups in Spain – the strikers show no signs of tiring. As the week progressed so did the roadblocks and closures. On one A-road, when road users began using an alternative route protesters hastily felled a tree across it. On Wednesday (6th), 500 miners cut off the main access point to the port of Gijon before marching to protest at the Albono thermal power plant. 60 roads were blocked with the guerilla-style tactics which prompted the Alsturias government office to begin organizing emergency supply convoys into the area.
Unions have called for a strike in all activity of the coalfields of Castile, Leon, Asturias and Aragon commencing on 18th June.