This interview focuses on mining and provides much personal experience and opinion on the mines and the union/protest activities of miners against the companies. Felix’s responses are very clear and informative.
Felix comes from a mining family. His father worked in the mine for 32 years and Felix grew up in the mining camp. In 1974 his father died of a lung disease – an illness which is common amongst miners. The mine that his father worked in closed down in 1972-73; the official reason being that the coal was finished but the truth according to Felix is that the mining settlement had “the highest level of organisation amongst workers at the time…”. Once the mine had closed down all other economic opportunities ceased in that area – “There was nobody left to sell to..” and so he moved to Yauricocha to work in a different mine.
He explains how it was difficult for him to get work because he was educated and because he was from Cerro and people from there had a reputation for being the most rebellious workers. He worked for a contractor and describes the exploitative working arrangements. When the company saw him playing football they asked him to be part of the camp’s team. Following this he was given easier work and the company took better care of them.
After seeing his father die and his best friend being killed in a mining accident, Felix also was involved in a cave-in accident and he managed to survive despite not being able to walk for a year because of the spinal injuries. He continued to work for the company but obviously not in the mines. Out of the mines, Felix was able to get a more complete picture of mining and the workers and joined the labour union, educated himself and later progressed to being Social Secretary for the National Federation. He was fired from Centromin Peru during a general strike. He stayed in his position and continued to learn about various legal issues affecting the miners.
He eventually left the camp and settled with this wife and children in Huancayo and his family became involved in trading. He says there is much less solidarity now amongst the miners but also no stability – privatisation of the mining company will lead to even more miners being laid off, with no prospects.
Felix hopes that his children will not become involved in mining work, he wants them to study and not have to go through what he did. Felix has been affected by his accident but has also developed pneumoconiosis and says he has seen many of this workmates with severe occupational illnesses. The interview ends with Felix repeating his wish that the future will be good for his children.
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||Talks about his parents, both came from mining families
||Father worked in mines for 32 years
Talks about how his father acquired a deadly lung disease in the mine.
Discusses how his mother supported the family upon the death of his father.
Explains that they left the mining camp because the mine – Goyllariquizca - closed. Distinguishes between the real reason for the mines closure and the stated reasons (ie: the company claimed the coal had been exhausted but in reality the labour conflicts motivated the closure).
||Talks about the what the miners and his family did following the mine's closure.
Says that he wanted to go to university but the lack of financial resources in the family forced him to look for a relative in Yauricocha where he sought work at the local Centromin mine. Explains that he needed to work in order to help his mother and younger brother. Says that he wanted to be a miner engineer at university.
||Explains the change he experienced when he moved to Yauricocha which was purely a mining camp.
||Explains that his mother moved to the countryside.
At first he couldn't get a job because the company didn't want to hire educated people because they had a reputation of stirring up trouble.
Talks about his experience working for a contractor.
||Talks about the working conditions in Yauricocha.
Explains that Yauricocha's conditions are better than those in Cerro de Pasco where his brother worked; it was more mechanised and better ventilated.
Says that his skills as football player gave him a place in the company team and thus he got easier jobs which he considers an advantage over other workers.
||Talks about the football team and his marriage.
Explains that marriages between mining families are common.
||Explains how the company distributed housing to the workers and how the system encouraged workers to have children.
||Explains that his intention was originally to work in the mine, save money and then leave in order to begin his studies but once he got married and had children he realised it would not be that easy.
Talks about his experience working at a telecommunications company in the jungle but explains that he returned to the mine because the pay was less and he could not handle the hot weather in the jungle.
||Talks about how the reasons why he hoped to retire from mining quickly, mainly this was motivated by the fact his father had died from an illness caused by mine work. Describes his work experiences and how his friend died in an accident in the mine and the impact it had on him.
||Speaks of the accident he experienced at the mine and its effects.
Tells us how the accident and his subsequent jobs in the company motivated him to join the labour union and become an active member.
Explains how his role as union leader led the company to fire him.
Tells us how his role as a union leader changed his life.
||Explains that after he was sacked he continued to participate in the union at the national level, as an Advisor to the National Federation.
Describes his own situation and that of his family after being sacked; he was evicted from his house and decided to settle in Huancayo – which was a shock being a “big” city.
||Restrictiveness of living in the mining camps – to the company’s convenience, miners lack awareness of what they can do outside the camps and their rights; he tries to encourage them by telling them they can be useful elsewhere.
After being sacked his family got involved in trade.
He says there is less solidarity among miners today and the union is somewhat more removed
||Considers that the future for the miners is grim; the privatisation project has put many jobs on the line, families will be expected to leave the camps and ex-miners have few prospects.
||Explains his role as a union leader.
Says that although his family and his wife's come from a mining background, he does not want his children to continue the tradition because of the health risks involved. He would like his children to continue getting an education.
||Says that despite his short involvement in mine work he did acquire an illness - pneumoconiosis.
Although he is not a miner he continues to support them through the Association of Retired Miners. The interview ends with Felix saying he hopes that his children’s future will be good.