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Striking Spain miners use rockets against police

JORGE SAINZ

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, June 19 2012 10:56 a.m. MDT

A boy wears the helmet of his father as coal miners attend a speech of one of their leaders during a protest march in Langreo near Oviedo, Spain, Monday, June 18, 2012. Unions for Spanish coal mining workers are waging a general strike as 8,000 mineworkers at over 40 coal mines in northern Spain continue their protests against government action to cut coal subsidies.

Emilio Morenatti, Associated Press

CINERA, Spain — Striking Spanish coal miners used homemade rockets and slingshots against police Tuesday as they kept up a protest against government spending cuts by barricading a highway and a rail line in this northern town.

At one point, some 80 officers firing rubber bullets were repelled by hundreds of miners and forced to retreat from Cinera, miners and an Associated Press photographer at the scene said.

A regional security official said he had no information about police being forced out but said the barricades in Cinera that cut off the transportation were eventually removed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy.

There were no immediate reports of serious injuries, but some miners were hit by rubber bullets.

The miners fear government mining subsidy cuts will devastate their industry. Spain is applying across-the-board cutbacks as part of an austerity-driven economic overhaul to slash its swollen deficit. But the cuts come as Spain's unemployment rate stands at nearly 25 percent.

The strikes — which have involved road and rail closures using burning tires, garbage containers and railroad ties — have lasted for weeks in the northern provinces of Asturias and Leon, where mining has been an integral part of the economy since Roman times.

Union officials say about 8,000 miners work in northern Spain and that the sector has made big strides to become self-sufficient, but that the cuts will leave most jobless.

Sainz reported from Madrid.

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