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    China Defies Peru Rescue of Miners Afflicted With Lung Disease

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    sang_garuda
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    China Defies Peru Rescue of Miners Afflicted With Lung Disease

    Post by sang_garuda on Fri Jul 25, 2008 10:20 am

    Mirna Chang will never forget the evening in July 2006 when her husband, Jose Rodriguez, collapsed on the living room couch in their cinder-block two-bedroom duplex and grabbed at his chest.

    ``I can't breathe, I can't breathe,'' he cried, his voice breaking in panic. By the time Chang got Rodriguez to the hospital, he was turning blue. Rodriguez, a worker at Chinese- owned Shougang Corp.'s iron ore mine in Peru, stayed in intensive care for more than a week.

    A year later, he died of a lung disease that strikes miners who work for years in dusty conditions.

    Signs of the lung disease that Rodriguez had, pneumoconiosis, are easily detectable on X-rays years before the disease reaches an advanced stage, says Miriam Vidurrizaga, the doctor who runs Peru's National Occupational Health and Environmental Protection Center, or Censopas.

    Peruvian regulations require mining companies to give every worker an annual medical exam. If any lung disease is detected, regardless of what caused it, the company must transfer the sick worker to a job free of such risks as dusty air.

    Daniel Vargas, Shougang's medical services director at the mine in San Juan de Marcona, Peru, says X-rays of Rodriguez in July 2006 -- days before Rodriguez first went to the hospital and a year before he died -- showed no signs of pneumoconiosis, and Rodriguez was allowed to continue working.

    Vargas says Shougang has never found widespread cases of pneumoconiosis in that mine.

    Agency Fines Shougang

    ``We don't have this kind of problem,'' he says.

    Peru's mining regulator, the Energy and Mining Investment Supervising Agency, or Osinergmin, says something quite different. An inspection in June 2006 found 110 of 889 Shougang workers, or 12 percent, had pneumoconiosis.

    The agency fined Shougang 147,000 soles ($45,030), saying the company violated regulations by allowing sick people to work in its mines and processing plants.

    The Peruvian unit of Beijing-based Shougang, China's seventh- largest steelmaker, responded to the Peru regulators by disagreeing with their medical findings. Shougang told the agency in writing it knew of just one case of pneumoconiosis at the time.

    Osinergmin said it didn't believe Shougang. ``These assertions are not backed up by documents, and since there was no evidence that disproves the problem, the violation stands,'' Osinergmin Mine Inspection Chief Guillermo Shinno wrote in an Oct. 24, 2007, report.

    Another Report on Violations

    A year before Osinergmin published its report, a different inspection by the General Directorate of Environmental Health reached similar conclusions. Shougang exposes workers to risks to their health and safety and violates Peruvian health laws, the health agency reported in June 2006.

    In September 2006, Moises Tapia, a doctor who runs a local branch of EsSalud, Peru's national health service, diagnosed Rodriguez with pneumoconiosis. That was two months after Shougang's finding that Rodriguez had no signs of the disease.

    ``It's a horrible death,'' Tapia says of the lung disease. The condition creates slivers of lung tissue that turn corklike, restricting airflow. Tapia says the 60-year-old died because he breathed in dust too long on the job.

    ``The illness, pneumoconiosis, is caused by working in the mine,'' he says. ``That's scientifically proven.''

    Chang, 48, says she and her husband were stunned by the diagnosis. That's because Shougang's doctor, Vargas, had been telling Rodriguez for more than a decade that his lungs were clear.

    `Couldn't Believe It'

    ``When the government doctor told us what he had, I couldn't believe it,'' says Chang, whose grandfather immigrated to Peru from Beijing decades ago. ``My husband never went to his own doctor because the company always said his lungs were clear.''

    Peru, the world's largest silver producer and third-largest producer of copper, zinc and tin, has a history of abusing workers' health and safety. Accidents in mines have claimed the lives of 519 people since 2000.

    In the Peruvian Amazon, thousands of people toil as modern- day slaves in logging camps and dangerous, hand-dug gold mines, working without pay and in remote areas far from home. Earlier this year, the government enacted a law requiring mining contractors to abide by safety and labor laws.

    ``Let's eradicate this underground economy, which is the slavery of the 21st century,'' Peruvian President Alan Garcia said on June 23.

    The Shougang mine has a higher rate of accidents that injure and kill workers than other foreign-owned open-pit mines, Osinergmin says.

    Six Die in Accidents

    Six workers have died in accidents at Shougang's mine and processing plants since 2000, double the number of deaths at Cerro Verde, a mine near Arequipa, Peru, that's owned by Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. Shougang runs the only large- scale iron ore mine in Peru.

    China started looking to Peru for natural resources 16 years ago, when Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori sold state-owned mines. In 1992, Shougang paid $120 million for the iron ore mine in San Juan de Marcona, which is in the Atacama Desert, 528 kilometers south of Lima.

    In addition, China National Petroleum Corp. won a contract to pump oil from state-owned fields.

    China's Peruvian acquisitions are part of a larger hunt for resources in Latin America by the world's most populous country. In the past five years, Chinese companies have made oil and mineral deals in Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Venezuela.

    Back to Work

    At Shougang, workers who feel sick usually go to EsSalud after the company doctor tells them they have no lung illness. One miner, Alfredo Carnero, says Shougang sent him back to work as a mechanic in a dusty processing plant for five years after Censopas doctors had diagnosed him with pneumoconiosis in 2002.

    The Shougang doctor told him each year that he was healthy.

    ``I always asked them why I felt bad, and they said I was fine,'' Carnero, 70, says. ``The doctor said I was as healthy as a young man and could work another 10 years.''

    Carnero says he retired in October and has started feeling better after almost a year of breathing cleaner air.

    Vargas, Shougang's medical director, says the company hired lung specialists to examine Carnero's medical records. They concluded Carnero didn't have pneumoconiosis. Vargas says the health ministry's diagnosis must have been flawed.

    Julio Ortiz, the secretary general of the Shougang Hierro Peru SAA Mine Workers Union, says Shougang routinely lies to workers about their health.

    ``They do everything they can to deny we are sick,'' he says. Ortiz, 46, was diagnosed by a government doctor with early-stage pneumoconiosis in 2002.

    `The Big Lie'

    ``They can lie and say no one is sick, but everyone who gets this disease and fights for their rights has their illness confirmed by the government,'' he says. ``This is how we show the big lie.''

    Vargas says he told Rodriguez his lungs were fine at every annual company exam and allowed him to return to work. He says Rodriguez had fibrosis, or scarring of the lungs, which he says was unrelated to the job.

    Chang, Rodriguez's widow, says Vargas never told the family that her husband had any lung condition. Her husband didn't get treatment until EsSalud doctors examined him, she says.

    Under Peruvian regulations, Shougang should have transferred a worker with lung fibrosis to a job in clean air, Censopas's Vidurrizaga says.

    ``They should be taken out of the job and put on the surface,'' she says.

    Closely Linked

    Pneumoconiosis and fibrosis are closely linked, says Donald Enarson, an epidemiology professor at the University of Alberta in Canada. Miners get pneumoconiosis, also known as silicosis, by breathing dust containing silica, a type of sand, for extended periods of time.

    Fibrosis is the scarring caused by breathing the dust, says Enarson, a specialist in occupational lung diseases.

    The dustier the air and the longer a miner works, the more likely he is to get pneumoconiosis, Enarson says. That makes the disease rare in mines in North America and Europe because air quality is closely monitored to prevent dust from building up, he says.

    In 2002, Censopas examined 220 Shougang miners at the request of the Mine Workers Union and diagnosed 62 with pneumoconiosis.

    Shougang's disability insurer, Lima-based Rimac Internacional Cia. de Seguros y Reaseguros SA, hired Jose Pineda, a doctor and lung specialist, in January of this year to review the chest X- rays of 830 workers.

    Close to 50 Shougang workers had some form of pneumoconiosis, says Pineda, who is based in the Edgardo Rebagliati Martins National Hospital in Lima.

    Just One Case

    Shougang disputes both the government findings and Pineda's January review. Vargas says Shougang in mid-2008 had just two cases of pneumoconiosis. Shougang is deciding whether to offer the two workers early retirement or jobs in safer areas.

    Rimac spokeswoman Patricia Cortez says the firm doesn't know about the 50 cases cited by Pineda; it agrees with Shougang.

    Another Shougang worker diagnosed by government doctors with pneumoconiosis, Alejandro de la Cruz, died in 2006 at the age of 69.

    Peru's Health Ministry diagnosed de la Cruz with pneumoconiosis in December 2000 and again in April 2002. The agency informed Shougang of its findings and recommended that he receive medical treatment as required by the government.

    Vargas disputes the health ministry's diagnosis and says de la Cruz wasn't sick. The company allowed de la Cruz to stay at his job working a drill rig in Shougang's 650-foot-deep open-pit iron ore mine in the desert, three of his relatives say.

    Disability Request

    On Feb. 11, 2003, Heina Vargas, a doctor at the San Juan de Marcona Hospital, diagnosed de la Cruz with advanced pneumoconiosis and wrote a recommendation that he be taken out of the mine.

    A week later, de la Cruz asked for disability payments, providing EsSalud's diagnosis that he was too ill to work, according to Rimac. Cortez, Rimac's spokeswoman, says the insurer had found that de la Cruz had ``normal lungs'' and didn't qualify for disability payments.

    Shougang then moved de la Cruz to an administrative job. By 2004, he was too sick to work, and he went on leave, Shougang's Vargas says.

    ``He was sick for a long time, but the company didn't do anything to help him,'' says de la Cruz's son, Elvis de la Cruz, 37. ``For this company, no one ever gets sick.''

    Pineda, the lung specialist hired by Rimac, says Shougang may have kept sick workers on the payroll because putting a miner into a desk job costs the company too much.

    `Relocation Is Expensive'

    ``That kind of relocation is expensive,'' Pineda says.

    Chinese ownership of the mine has fueled years of conflict in San Juan de Marcona, says Mayor Joel Rosales. Shougang's offices burned down on April 12, 2007, as hundreds of people protested the firing of seven workers.

    Shougang supplies drinking water to the town, and it provides it for just four hours a day. Company executives get water around the clock, Rosales says. Raul Vera, Shougang's adjunct general manager, says the company doesn't have more water for the town because the area is a desert.

    ``They don't invest in this community or even their mine,'' Rosales says. ``They take all our natural riches to China and do nothing for us.''

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    Re: China Defies Peru Rescue of Miners Afflicted With Lung Disease

    Post by car0_linex on Sun Jul 27, 2008 4:33 pm

    thank 4 share affraid

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    Re: China Defies Peru Rescue of Miners Afflicted With Lung Disease

    Post by sodong on Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:34 am

    thanks 4 info bro garuda rock

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    Re: China Defies Peru Rescue of Miners Afflicted With Lung Disease

    Post by Prodip2007 on Sun Aug 17, 2008 10:26 am

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