MAC/20: Mines and Communities

BOLIVIA

Published by MAC on 2006-02-13

BOLIVIA

by Bolivian Government Confirms Call for Bids for El Mutún Mining Project

13th February 2006

http://www.radiomundoreal.fm

The Bolivian government confirmed on Friday that a call for bids for the international mining project El Mutun, located in Santa Cruz department, will take place on February 21st.

The Bolivian President Evo Morales met with civic representatives from Santa Cruz and from Germán Busch province, where El Mutun mining project is located, and confirmed his aspiration of complying with the terms provided for under the contract.

The respect for the agreed deadline is one of the main demands of the provincial and departamental representatives.

Chiquitano Indigenous Organization, which gathers more than 450 communities from five provinces in Santa Cruz, who live in the lands where El Mutun deposit is placed, wrote an open letter to Evo Morales, asking him to stop the call for bids for the new project.

Chiquitano people think the call for bids violates the indigenous rights established under ILO's (International Labor Organization) Convention 169.

Bolpress reported that El Mutún is a gigantic iron deposit, with a 60 km-square mineralized area. It is estimated that there are over 40 thousand million tons of iron which gross production value would amount to 100 million dollars a year.

According to La Razón, there are five international companies interested in exploiting El Mutun's resources.

La Razón reported that Morales said the country wants partners instead of owners, and explained that this criterion will be informed to the five companies that have already expressed their interest in submitting their bids.

Chiquitano Indigenous Organization explains in its letter addressed to Morales that the terms of the call for bids to exploit El Mutun's deposits does not benefit the Bolivian people.

According to Bolpress, indigenous [people] think the call for bids for the mining project benefit "the unspoken insterests of transnational corporations," linked to the business and political powers of Santa Cruz department, which have undercover members within the department's Civic Committees."

This implies a "complete provocation and unawareness of the people's sovereign will in the last presidential elections, whose demand is clear to recover the property of the natural resources (such as mining resources) to the benefit of the Bolivian people," the letter added.

The indigenous organization claims that the Bolivian government calls for a national debate in which indigenous communities affected by the mining activity participate, in order to change the Code of Mining.

According to Chiquitano, the amendments to the Code should facilitate the increase of the royalties produced by the mining activity and respect the rights of the indigenous peoples, under ILO's Convention 169.

Indigenous people propose that a new call for bids should take place to exploit El Mutun's resources, after the Code of Mining is amended.

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