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Spanish Miners March in Favor of Continued Coal Subsidies

Wed 22th Sep 2010

Yesterday around 200 miners left from Leon in northwestern Spain on a march to demand that the European Union allow the Spanish government to continue subsidizing the domestic coal industry.

The protest is intended to evoke memories of the "Black March" of 1992, when 500 miners walked to Madrid to dramatize the situation of Spain's mining sector.

On the command: "Miners, line up two-by-two" the men left the town of Villablino amid tears and applause from family, friends and neighbors.

The miners, who come from throughout northern Spain, plan to cover the 200 kilometers (120 miles) to Leon by Sept. 29, date of a scheduled general strike against the austerity measures and labor-law overhaul now being implemented by the Spanish government.

If by then the EU has not approved Spanish legislation providing incentives to electric companies to buy domestic coal, the miners will continue on to Madrid, organizers say.

The EU's current regulations authorizing such incentives expires Dec. 31 and some inside the European Commission, the executive arm of the 27-member bloc, have proposed mandating a definitive end to coal subsidies in 2014.

<>Besides the march in the Leon region, four miners continue a hunger strike they began last week, while 50 others remain 500 meters (1,639 feet) underground as part of a protest at a mine in the northern town of Palencia.

The past month has seen disgruntled Spanish miners mounting sit-ins, demonstrations and roadblocks in connection with a range of both company-specific and sectoral grievances.

Spain's largest labor federations, the UGT and CCOO, have announced separate 48-hour strikes in the mining sector, the first of which is set to begin Wednesday.

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