Backus and Johnston

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Backus and Johnston

Backus and Johnston, a company started in 1889 by American engineers Jacob Backus and J. Howard Johnston, with the first customized smelter in the copper center of Casapalca, Peru. A few years later the company reduced the cost of transporting copper for export, making use of the arrival in the high Andes in 1893 of the Central Railway. As the company gained control of mineral transport, it lowered the amounts paid for copper to rival producers. This practice soon drove many Peruvian producers out of copper mining and led to a virtual foreign copper monopoly. By the end of World War I the New York-based Cerro De Pasco Corporation had taken over Backus and Johnston, and by 1930 few other locally owned mining smelters remained. A large measure of the profitability of Andean copper can be attributed to the low cost of labor. The cheap labor force of villagers had left the nearby villages, attracted by the cash offered for work in the mines. Bad working conditions, low pay, and company inattention soon led to strikes. After years of struggle miners won the right to an eight-hour day and other concessions. Labor conditions remained poor, and mine workers continued to be organized and militant.

See alsoCopper Industry .


Rosemary Thorp and Geoffrey Bertram, Peru, 1890–1977: Growth and Policy in an Open Economy (1978), esp. pp. 73-83.

Florencia Mallon, The Defense of Community in Peru's Central Highlands: Peasant Struggle and Capitalist Transition, 1860–1940 (1983), esp. pp. 126, 135-136.

Additional Bibliography

Jochamowitz, Luis. Hombres, minas y pozos: 1896–1996: Un siglo de minería y petróleo en el Perú. Lima: Sociedad Nacional de Minería y Petróle, 1996.

                                        Vincent Peloso