Around 2,000 quarries have been closed, which may lead to the suspension of 45,000 workers, head of the Minya Quarries Workers Syndicate Mohamed Amin said.
The decision comes after Minister of Local Development Adel Labib decided to refer all illegal quarries to the General Prosecution, and for the machinery to be confiscated. The army is assisting the ministry in surveying the area of the quarries to “achieve the most possible production”.
Amin added that these workers have been working in these quarries for years. “The workers are angry, as the ministry will close all the quarries to begin the surveying all quarries,” he said.
Amin called upon officials to intervene stop the unemployment of the workers.
He added that the surveying processes measures all the space of the quarries, without taking into account that some places are rich with materials, while other are not. He explained that the measures will count all the space and distribute profits accordingly.
According to the ministry, there are 1,800 registered quarries in 21 governorates. In Minya, there are 15 types of quarries, one of which is lime.
Thousands of workers from the city benefit from the quarry business, acting as workers or drivers.
With an average daily wage of about EGP 50, working conditions in the quarries are poor, as most of the labourers are working illegally. The chance to sustain an injury from the work is also high, due to what Amin called “unsafe equipment”.
Many workers lose a limb during their first week of work because of the lack of experience and poor training, one of the workers said. But even experienced workers have sustained serious injuries working with heavy equipment designed to crush and cut rock.
Another risk quarry workers face is electric shock. Poorly insulated wires in the presence of morning dew have shocked many workers.
Sabry Taha, head of the committee to help quarries worker in Minya, said that the “Mineral Resources law allowed for such a step”, to allow the government to have a share in the profits of the quarries. He added that some articles in the law are “hard to be implemented in real life”, as the total production of the quarries contain only 60% of the sold products.
The law has been formerly criticised by the State Council, who requested that the Ministry of Petroleum review amend various items, and set an upper limit for the financial categories that will be specified in the by-laws following approval.
The agreement signed with the army’s Military Survey department and the Ministry of Local Development entails that EGP 4 is to be paid for every square metre owned by the state.
Another syndicate member said the application of the law will affect many workers who are not necessarily involved in the process of production, like drivers.
The quarries owners have been lobbying by calling upon officials to consider the effect of implementing the law on the families of the workers.
A meeting is expected to take place between the owners and Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb at the beginning of the coming month.
The Salafi Nour party has arranged a formal document to cabinet to illustrate the problems of the workers. The document is yet to be discussed.
In 2011, hundreds of quarry workers staged a protest in Giza, to demand their overdue bonuses and the hiring of workers on a permanent basis.
In 2009, thousands of quarry workers and owners clashed with police in leaving one policeman killed.
Currently, workers are forbidden from striking, as in case of proven to have participated in a strike a worker can be forced into early retirement. For unlicenced workers, protesting is outlawed by the controversial Protest Law.