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» Steelabor Article, Spring, 2005 «


 

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Asarco Copper Mine and Smelter Workers

In the Spring of 2005, I was asked by the United Steelworkers to write an article for the union’s. magazine, Steelabor. The subject was to be the way copper mining giant American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) was treating its retirees, and how the company’s workers were preparing for contract negotiations. Asarco is a company that’s been abusing its workers for a hundred years, and is now owned by a big Mexican conglomerate (Grupo Mexico) that is even worse. The workers were represented by the Steelworkers and other unions.

The article was published in the Spring, 2005, issue of Steelabor. Normally, the Steelworkers posts issues of its magazine on the union’s web site. However, this issue was never posted. The union had just merged with the Paper, Allied Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers Union (PACE) forming the new union USW and perhaps the folks were too busy to post it. Therefore, I scanned the article and post a PDF of it here. Note: Just to be clear, I did not take the photos of the rally in Mexico, but I did take the others.

Asarco Fight Goes Global

After this article was published and the contract expired, the workers went on strike for a few months, returning to work in November of 2005. You can find more information about the events by visiting the USW web site and doing a search for “Asarco”. (The search box is at the bottom of the USW web page.)

Other Photos — Thursday and Friday, May 12 & 13, 2005

There were more photos than would fit in the article. A selection of them appears below.

I was taken on a tour of the mining areas by people from the Steelworkers. Near the town of Kearny, Arizona, in the mountains north of Tucson, is the Ray mine, shown in some of the photos. The regional Subdirector of the Steelworkers, who has lived for most of his life in Kearny and worked in the concentrator and smelter, told me that he was born in the town of Sonora. That town no longer exists because it was devoured by the Ray mine. Some of us went on the public tour of the Mission Mine, south of Tucson, and some photos were taken inside the mine property.

It was a little hard to absorb the scale of things. These open pit copper mines are on the order of 2½ miles across. Even the enormous trucks and gigantic electric shovels look like ants in any photo that shows a sizable portion of the mine. In the Mission mine it’s a 50 minute round trip for a truck to leave the shovel, drop off its load and return to get another. Not that they do it in the mine, but those big trucks can go 70 mph with a full 320 ton load! That’s nearly ten times the capacity of the average tractor trailer rig.

Inside the mines, all driving is on the left, British style. I asked why and was told that the trucks are so big that the drivers can’t reliably judge where the right sides of their vehicles are. They can’t safely pass a truck going in the opposite direction and know that they are not drifting off the road. Therefore, they drive on the left so that they can use the road edge as a guide. They know that the roads are wide enough for 2 trucks to pass with adequate clearance, so everything is copacetic.

The Photos

Clicking on a photo will display a low resolution photo to help you decide is if is something you want; they are also suitable to e-mail and web site distribution. The link below the photos will allow you do download medium resolution (about 1mb.) versions. All of the medium resolution photos are at 266 dpi. If necessary, high resolution photos are available.

To save a photo to your hard disk, Right-Click on it when it’s displayed on your screen and choose Save Picture As. A dialog box will open that will let you choose the folder to which to save the photo.

Asarco Retirees mentioned in article. Marcos & Adela Monteño

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Ynez & Gloria Lopez

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Unions in the Ray Mine & Concentrator Contract at USW Local 5252 in Kearny, AZ.
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From left to right: Rodney Olson (IBEW 518), Robert Manriquez (President, USW 5252), Rick Lopez (VP, IAM 2181), Tino Flores (USW 915), Ralph Garcia (Union Rep., Boilermakers 627), Jerry Bright (VP, USW 5252), Jimmy Guzman (Treasurer, USW 915), Robert Sandoval (USW 886), Tony Mesa (USW 886), John Ramsay (President, IAM 2181).

Views of Hayden, Arizona. The town is dominated by the 1000+ foot stack at the Asarco concentrator and smelter. People live nearly under the conveyor casrrying material to the site.

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In the foreground is the business district of Hayden. Note the big slag pile on the right.

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The big white building near the stack is the concentrator that purifies the ore enough to feed the smelter.

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The black building on the right is the smelter.

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The park and playground abuts the concentrator. It’s better than in years past when there was no park and the kids played in the tailings.

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The town pool is there, too.

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Slogans painted on an abandoned building across from a USW union hall, left over from a past strike.

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Views of the Ray mine in Kearny, next town to Hayden, north of Tucson. For scale, note the pickup truck next to the electric shovel, lower left.

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These monster trucks haul 320 tons per load. The driver sits about 20 feet above the ground.

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The shovel can put  a 320 ton load into a truck with 3 scoops.

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Views of the Mission mine, south of Tucson.
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The north mill. The south mill is closed, but will open when the mine get closer to full production.

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Downtown Tucson is visible in the upper left beyond the mine.

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