FAR, far away from a Chilean mine where 33 trapped men struggle to cope as they await rescue, 50 Spanish miners are also deep in the earth’s bowels – but by their own choice.
Yesterday marked Day 9 of an unusual coal miners’ protest, a sit-in staged 500 metres underground. No showers, no toilets, no internet and soot-dusted mattresses are a small price to pay, the miners reason, in exchange for a more hopeful future for their beleaguered industry.
Their strike in northern Palencia province is the culmination of a long dispute over unpaid wages and the future of an antiquated industry struggling to survive as it competes with gas-fired electrical utility plants and heavily subsidised renewable energy projects.
The Spaniards vehemently deny any suggestion they are cashing in on the South American crisis.
Spain’s coal mining industry employs about 10,000 people, down from 50,000 in the late 1970s.
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