The district around Peshkopi, a small town in the northeast of Albania, 20 km from the Macedonian border, is known for its ore and mineral deposits including iron, copper, chromium and sulphur. One of the largest mines in the area is in Bulqiza, roughly 20 km from Peshkopi. In June 2007, workers at the ferrochrome mine in Bulqiza went on strike over the level of their pay and the deplorable safety conditions in the mine. Their anger increased after two miners, Hysni Lezi and Avni Durici were killed in an accident on June 11th.
This was not an isolated incident.. In a news conference, broadcast on Vizion Plus, Prime Minister Berisha had already promised to look into the situation in the mine after an accident in September 2005 caused five deaths.
On June 25 2007, 21 workers went on hunger strike. Their protest was however, overshadowed by the upcoming presidential election in parliament, and did not receive much media coverage. The civil rights movement MJAFT decided to assist the miners in their protest, and to bring the issue to the nation's attention by organising demonstrations in Tirana. With MJAFT's help, the miners were bussed to Tirana, where they protested in front of a number of government buildings, including the prime minister's office. They spent two nights camping in the streets of Tirana, accompanied by MJAFT activists, and filmed by TV cameras. Finally their efforts met with success when the administration of the mine agreed to enter into negotiations.
While negotiations with Deca Metal Company were a step in the right direction, problems in Bulqiza continued. A MJAFT press release on August 14 2007 accused political parties of politicising the issue and condemned the local administration for exerting pressure on miners. The release followed the death of another miner, Zajmi Hysa, who had been the Secretary of the Bulqiza Miners' Union, and one of the organisers of the strike.
"During a press conference Elisa Spriropali (Mjaft!) said that "The death of the miner Hysa, the third within two months, is a clear indicator that this mine is in need of immediate intervention in terms of job conditions, safety measures and maintenance of the mine. This is the reason why the continuation of the talks with the Deca- Metal is crucial… Today's Mjaft! declaration was severe regarding the local administration in the Bulqiza mine and the local government. ."Mjaft! calls for the mine's local administration and the local government to immediately stop the inhumane pressure put upon locals and the miners in particular", stressed Spiropali during the press conference.
"Bulqiza is not your property", Spiropali told the local administration members."Any attempt to hold this town "hostage" with nepotism and illegal methods will fail. Bulqiza miners are confident of winning and will not give up."
(MJAFT Press release August 14 2007)