Peruvian copper miners win Freeport strike, 2011


Freeport miners were fighting to receive an increase in wages.

Time period

29 September, 2011 to 14 December, 2011


Jump to case narrative


Freeport Miners, Freeport Labor Union


Not known

External allies

Not known

Involvement of social elites

Peruvian Government, President Ollanta Humala


Freeport Mining Company

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not Known

Campaigner violence

Alleged murder of "step-in contractors" who took the place of the striking workers. It is not completely clear whether the strikers committed the murders or whether the government planned a set-up to justify military intervention, but it is certain that the contractor murders were not sanctioned by the movement.

Repressive Violence

Shooting of protesters by military


Economic Justice



Group characterization


Groups in 1st Segment

Peruvian Government
President Ollanta Humala

Segment Length

Approximately 13 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

9 out of 10 points

Database Narrative

On 29 September 2011 about 1,200 miners at Freeport’s Cerro Verde mining site began a 75-day strike. The participants were scheduled to walk off their jobs at 8:30 am Eastern Time. At midnight on the same day, 8,000 miners at Freeport’s Grasberg mine planned to begin a one month strike. The workers at both of these mines were part of the same miners union, all working towards the same goals. 

The strikes began after wage talk attempts had failed. The union’s general secretary said, “Freeport’s offer was insufficient. There was no chance of reaching an agreement”. 

The workers called for increased pay, claiming that the record profits for the company should be translated into increased wages. In July, Freeport had announced a net income of $2.9 billion for the span of the first six months of 2011. Workers were receiving between $1.50 - $3.50 per hour. This frustrated the workers, and they argued for several different pay increases, but ultimately settled upon an increase to $17.50 an hour. 

The Peruvian government’s Labor Ministry ruled the strike as legal, so the Freeport company was barred from hiring outside contractors and firing employees on strike. However, Freeport allegedly began hiring contractors anyway to fill the positions of the strikers, which the workers demanded be stopped. The government stepped in and also ordered the company to stop relying on the 600 some volunteers for labor and threatened to fine the company 26,380 US dollars if they did not comply. 

Despite this form of governmental support, government officials still inflicted violence on the strikers. On 10 October the para-military police, mobilized by the President’s government, opened fire on protesting workers in the nearby port of Timika. A dozen strikers were wounded and one (Petrus Ayamiseba) was killed. One of the wounded (Leo Wandagau) died five days later in his home on 15 October due to infection from bullet wounds. 

On 17 October, fifteen Cerro Verde Miners started a hunger strike in response to the military violence against their fellow protesters, hoping to pressure the government to more quickly resolve the dispute. The strike was an open movement and others were welcomed to join if they wished. Hundreds of miners and supporters also blockaded the mine, barring access to any strike breakers and contractors, and cutting off supply routes to the mine itself. 

The 110Km pipeline that channeled gold and copper concentrates from the mountains to Timika was cut in several places. It is unclear whether the destruction was done by the protestors or if the government was trying to set the protestors up to justify military action. 

Three contractors hired by the company were killed and three more injured in a reported ambush on a road leading to the mine. The perpetrators were also unknown. Officers with sniffer dogs investigated, but never prosecuted any citizens. 

On 19 October, the Freeport-McMoRan mine suspended all operations and refused to say how long the closure would last. Officially, the company blamed security issues and sabotage as reasons for the closure of the mine, however the hunger strike and actions of the campaigners, along with the violence against both sides appears to be a greater cause of the shutdown. 

Following the shutdown, the government began urging the management to resolve the strike by taking it to the Industrial Court. Following the suggestions of the court, the Freeport labor union agreed to cut the strikers minimum pay demand to $7.80 an hour in hopes to more easily come to a compromise with the mining company. The union also added a further goal to their campaign in response to the “termination” of hundreds of strikers from their job positions at the mine, and demanded that all relieved workers be allowed to return to their jobs.

After close to two more months of strikes, the Freeport company finally agreed to an increase in wages. The strike was crippling productions and severely hurting the copper market in Peru. Workers were offered a 37% increase in wages, improved housing allowances, educational assistance, and a retirement savings plan, all of which the workers agreed to. 

The agreement was seen by the press as a victory for Freeport’s workers, because even though their original requests called for much higher wages, they gained a substantial increase in wages and benefits.  Also, all workers were allowed back into their positions. 


Miners in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Indonesia had gone on strike at different times earlier in the year, all seeking better working conditions and a greater percentage of record profits very similar to the strike at Freeport (1).


Emery, Alexander and Rusmana, Yoga. "Freeport McMoRan's Peru Copper Miners Strike Again Over Wage Increase", Bloomberg News. Published Sep. 29th, 2011. <>

Head, Mike. "Freeport Shut Papuan Gold Mine in New Strike-breaking Bid", World Socialist Website. Published Oct. 19th, 2011. <>

Shimkus, John. "Freeport Miners Strike in Peru and Indonesia", Energy-Digital Global Energy Portal. Publishing date unknown. <>

Author Unknown. "Freeport Miners Start Hunger Strike in Peru", Thomson Reuters News. Published Oct. 17th, 2011. <>

Author Unknown. "Striking Freeport Miners in Peru Resume Talks", Thomson Reuters News. Published Oct. 13th, 2011. <>

Author Unknown. "Indonesian Freeport-McMoRan Mine Strike Continues, Two Unionists Shot Dead", International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine, and General Workers' Unions (ICEM). Published Oct. 24th, 2011. <>

Author Unknown/BBC News Writer. "Grasberg Mine Workers End Strike", BBC World News. Published Dec. 14th, 2011. <>

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Nikki Richards, 07/10/2012