MAC: Mines and Communities

A Bolivian silver mine protest is called off

Published by MAC on 2010-08-22
Source: Reuters (2010-08-16)

- But no apparent end to the country's mining conflicts

Operations at two of Bolivia's most important silver mines have resumed, following a two-week blockade by protestors.

Reportedly, agreement has now been reached on the construction of an airport and cement factory, and the re-opening of a metals processing plant.

But whether relationships between mining-dependent communities and the government will "return to normal" are in considerable doubt. As leading Latin American analysist, Jeffrey R Weeks, pointed out this week:

"[U]nless the Morales government takes the unlikely turn toward abandoning its bourgeois alliances and committing itself to the authentic anti-capitalist and indigenous-liberationist demands of the popular revolts of the 2000-2005 insurrectionary cycle, the Potosí uprising is likely just the beginning of things to come". See: The Rebellion in Potosí: Uneven Development, Neoliberal Continuities, and a Revolt Against Poverty in Bolivia

* For a previous posting on our website, please see:Disputes and roadblocks halt San Cristobal operations in Bolivia's prime mining region

ESPAÑOL

Bolivia ends protest hitting top silver mines

Carlos Quiroga

Reuters

16 August 2010

LA PAZ - Bolivian protesters ended more than two weeks of demonstrations on Monday that disrupted operations at two of the world's top silver deposits, and Japan's Sumitomo said it had resumed work at its halted mine.

The 19-day protest over infrastructure in the mineral-rich Potosi region has hurt the mainstay mining industry in Bolivia, a big global producer of zinc, silver, tin and lead, in a major challenge for leftist President Evo Morales.

As the protest leaders ordered demonstrators to lift roadblocks and reopen the mines, it was still unclear how much the strike affected the Potosi region, which exported $880 million -- almost exclusively minerals -- in the first half of 2010.

Sumitomo said its silver-zinc-lead San Cristobal mine had resumed operations hours before the protest had officially ended. It had been forced to stop processing ore after some demonstrators threatened to cut energy supply to the operation.

Coeur D'Alene's San Bartolome mine, the world's largest pure silver mine, was shut after workers joined the protests, which blockaded the city of Potosi. A spokesman for San Bartolome was not immediately available for an update on operations.

The combined output of the two mines accounts for about 83 percent of the nearly 1.1 million kilograms of fine silver Bolivia produced in 2009, according to mining ministry data.

Glencore's smaller Porco mine, which produces silver and zinc, was also shut down because of the protests. The company was not immediately available for comment.

The government and protesters reached agreements on a border dispute between the Potosi and Oururo regions, on the construction of an airport and cement factory and the re-opening of a metals plant.

The government said earlier on Monday that the deals simply reaffirmed processes that are already in place and called the strikes "unnecessary".

Celebrating protesters burnt an effigy of Morales, reflecting a mood in sharp contrast to the strong support Morales enjoyed in Potosi when he was reelected just eight months ago.

The 19-day protest was the longest Morales has faced so far in his presidency.

(Reporting by Carlos Quiroga, writing by Kristina Cooke and Alonso Soto. Editing by Simon Gardner)


Sumitomo Says Resumes Zinc Mine Operations in Bolivia

Jae Hur and Ichiro Suzuki

Bloomberg

16 August 2010

Sumitomo Corp., Japan's third- largest trading house, said it resumed operations at its zinc, silver and lead mine in Bolivia as protesters suspended road blockades after threatening to cut power to the site.

Operations at the San Cristobal resumed yesterday, spokesman Koji Furui said today by phone. Sumitomo's wholly owned mine was closed for maintenance on Aug. 10 and 11, and was shut from Aug. 12 following the protests, he said.

Protesters suspended road blockades and hunger strikes yesterday, saying government officials agreed to address their grievances after 19 days of demonstrations that paralyzed Bolivia's southern Potosi region, the Associated Press reported.

Sumitomo took over full ownership of the mine, the world's third-biggest producer of silver and sixth-largest for zinc, last year after its partner, Apex Silver Mines Ltd., filed for bankruptcy. The mine produces about 1,300 metric tons of zinc- silver ore and 300 tons of lead-silver ore a day.

Protesters blocked major roads in the Potosi region since July 29 amid a border dispute with neighboring Oruro over a limestone deposit and construction of an international airport.


Bolivia's San Bartolome mine resumes ops - owner

Reuters

17 August 2010

LA PAZ - Coeur D'Alene said Tuesday its giant San Bartolome mine, the world's largest pure silver mine, had returned to normal after protesters lifted demonstrations in Bolivia that hit foreign-owned mines.

Bolivian protesters ended more than two weeks of demonstrations over government investment in the mineral-rich Potosi region on Monday that disrupted the operations of Coeur's San Bartolome and Sumitomo's San Cristobal.

"As of Monday evening, mining and processing activities at San Bartolome have returned to normal," Humberto Rada, President of Coeur South America and Coeur's Bolivian subsidiary said in a statement.

U.S.-based Coeur is maintaining its production guidance for the mine for 2010 of 6.5 million ounces of silver, the statement said.

Japan's Sumitomo said its silver-zinc-lead San Cristobal mine had resumed operations hours before the protest had officially ended. It had been forced to stop processing ore after protesters threatened to cut energy supply to the mine.

The government and demonstrators reached agreements on a border dispute between the Potosi and Oururo regions, on the construction of an airport and cement factory and the re-opening of a metals processing plant.

The combined output of the two mines accounts for over 80 percent of the nearly 1.1 million kg of fine silver Bolivia produced in 2009, according to mining ministry data. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero in Santiago; Writing by Eduardo Garcia; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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