MAC/20: Mines and Communities

BOLIVIA

Published by MAC on 2007-09-12

BOLIVIA

Bolivia accuses Glencore of blocking tin sales

12th September 2007 - http://www.mining-journal.com

Bolivia has accused Swiss commodities trader Glencore International AG of blocking tin sales from its former Vinto smelter, nationalized earlier this year, a Mining Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

The leftist government of President Evo Morales seized control of Vinto from Glencore in February, saying the company`s acquisition of the smelter in 2005 was illegal.

In the weeks following the nationalization, both the government and Glencore vowed to seek compensation over the smelter -- the South American country`s largest -- and the company threatened to seek international arbitration.

Mining Ministry spokesman Edwin Guzman said Minister Luis Alberto Echazu had met executives from Glencore`s Bolivian subsidiary Sinchi Wayra on Tuesday to discuss a letter he said the Swiss company had sent to "scare off" potential buyers of Vinto`s output.

Echazu told reporters on Tuesday the alleged letter says Vinto`s tin belongs to the company and could be confiscated. "We`ve got a copy of the letter that show`s this ... and yesterday in the Presidential Palace we discussed the letter (with Glencore)," Guzman told Reuters.

A Glencore spokeswoman in Switzerland said she could not immediately comment on the accusations.

Guzman added that during Tuesday`s meeting Glencore had denied the accusations, saying it was not the company`s policy to harm Bolivia`s mineral trade. Daily newspaper La Razon quoted the mining minister as saying Bolivia had not been able to sell some 2,500 tonnes of tin worth $26 million due to Glencore`s alleged actions. In April, mining officials said Glencore had agreed to buy part of Vinto`s output in February and March, suggesting tensions between the company and Bolivia had eased.

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