Around 200 miners were protesting austerity cuts yesterday in the northern Spanish village of Ciñera near León. Police used rubber bullets, protesters retaliated with their own home-made weapons.
There have been ongoing protests in several mining towns and villages in Spain, over the Spanish Government's plans to slash subsidies to the coal sector by over 60%. This would reduce subsidies from 301 million euro last year, to only 111 million this year.
According to union officials, these austerity measures could jeopardize the jobs of about 8,000 coal miners and up to 30,000 other people indirectly employed in the mining sector.
Since Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy took office in 2011, the Spanish Government has brought in many unpopular austerity measures to reduce its huge budget deficit.
Protesting miners declared a sector-wide strike, and road and rail transit was paralyzed in León and northern Asturias as the miners erected makeshift barricades of burning garbage containers, railroad ties and tires.
The trouble started when police tried to remove one of these barricades, which was set alight by masked miners on a highway near the village.
The Guardia Civil (civil guard) officers, clad in bulletproof vests and holding shields, fired rubber bullets and smoke bombs at the miners, who, in turn attacked the police with rockets fired from home-made bazookas, stones and firecrackers.
Apparently the officers eventually withdrew from Ciñera under pressure from the miners, who continued to throw stones and firecrackers, chanting “We will not stop. They will get tired before we do.”
So far, it is unknown how many policemen or miners were injured in Wednesday's clashes.
On Friday, seven people were injured in similar clashes and on Monday, tens of thousands of miners marched in the towns of León and Langreo in a sector-wide strike called in several mining towns.