Spanish miners end underground protest

29th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Some 50 Spanish miners on Wednesday ended a four-week-old underground sit-in over unpaid wages after the European Commission approved aid for the industry.

"They are all out as the situation over the coming years has been clarified," said a spokesman for the Uminsa mining company, Juan Jose Valverde.

The miners have been half a kilometre (1,640 feet) underground in a mine near the town of Guardo in northern Spain since September 2 to demand unpaid wages and draw attention to the plight of the nation's struggling coal industry due to the loss of subsidies.

But the European Commission agreed on Wednesday to grant Spain's struggling coal mines guaranteed orders from electricity generators through until the end of 2014.

Madrid invoked a rule that allows it to ensure that electricity producers source nine percent of their energy input from domestic coal during that period, thereby helping its miners cope during a countdown to planned closures.

The decision by the miners in Guardo came as some 200 of their colleagues ended a nine-day protest march across northern Spain.

Up until February, government subsidies helped guarantee coal purchases in Spain. But Madrid ended the subsidies in the wake of objections from the European Commission.

Deprived of government aid, Spanish coal has been more expensive and therefore found less buyers, which the mining companies blame for their failure to pay the salaries.

© 2010 AFP

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