A mining strike in Peru entered its second day on Tuesday, affecting production at some mines, while workers at others reported for duty and said they were still deciding whether or not to join the nationwide walkout.
The strike, which will test President Alan Garcia at a time when he is losing sway in Congress, is designed to pressure Congress to pass a bill that would give workers a greater share of profits from sky-high metals prices. Garcia has tried to persuade Congress to approve the bill, but so far has failed.
Workers in Peru, the world's leading silver producer and second-largest copper and zinc miner, marched to Congress to press their demands.
The strike continues for the second day, Luis Castillo, head of the nation's largest federation of mining unions, told Reuters.
We have marched to Congress, and now we are going to meet with legislators, so they can meet our demands, he said.
Mineral exports from Peru have helped fuel a six-year economic boom, but mine workers say they are not getting a fair share of surging profits.
Garcia is facing demands to spread the wealth to workers and the poor, or risk losing support for his free-market policies at a time when left-wing parties are eyeing elections in 2011.
Garcia's approval rating is hovering near 30 percent and his chief of staff has asked the permanent commission of Congress to vote on the bill soon, while most legislators are away on recess.
But at least one party, the Union for Peru, says the controversial bill should be voted on only by the entire Congress, after all representatives return to work around the end of July.
This shouldn't be dealt with like this (by the permanent commission), said Oswaldo Luizar, a leader of the party in Congress.
Union leaders, however, are demanding change and the country's biggest labor confederation has planned a general strike for July 9.
Peruvian miner Buenaventura said the strike halted production at its Uchucchacua silver mine.
All production at Uchucchacua is stopped, Carlos Galvez, the company's finance chief, told Reuters. The company's other mines in Peru were not affected by the strike.
Workers were also on strike at the Ilo smelter and Cuajone mine of Southern Copper , one of the world's largest copper producers, union leader Arnaldo Oviedo has said.
The company has said production was barely affected and temporary workers were being used.
Miners at Peru's largest copper-zinc pit, Antamina, owned by BHP Billiton, were also on strike. But a company official said its effect on production was minimal.
In general, there has not been a large impact, Jose Salazar told Reuters.
Shougang Hierro Peru and the Pierina mine of Canada's Barrick Gold were also hit by walkouts, according to union officials.
Barrick's larger Lagunas Norte mine, which relies on temporary workers, was not affected, and the company said Pierina was operating.
The union at Freeport-McMoran's Cerro Verde copper mine said workers would decide later this week whether to go on strike after a walkout earlier this month.
Union leaders at Doe Run Peru and Volcan have also said workers could vote to join the strike later in the week.
Workers already have gone on strike at Volcan's Andaychagua silver-zinc mine, though workers at its other mines have not yet joined the protest.
Miners at Peruvian tin producer Minsur's San Rafael mine have voted to go on strike early on Wednesday, a union leader said, while its smelter has already been struck.
An official at Milpo, a zinc, lead and copper miner, said not one of the company's mines was affected by the strike. (Writing by Dana Ford; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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