MAC: Mines and Communities

Morales Denies Pressuring For El Mutún Bidding Delay - Bolivia

Published by MAC on 2005-12-23

Morales denies pressuring for El Mutún bidding delay - Bolivia

23rd December 2005

Bolivia's president-elect Evo Morales denied reports that say his party, the leftist MAS (Movimiento Al Socialismo), put pressure on officials to delay the bidding process for the El Mutún iron ore deposit in Santa Cruz.

Morales also guaranteed that the project will go forward: "This is a process that must continue because it is important for the country, and especially Santa Cruz," local press quoted him as saying.

The government delayed bidding for 60 days from December 21, when companies were due to submit offers.

But mining and metallurgy minister Dionisio Garzón recently told BNamericas that there was pressure from various sectors to delay the bidding decision.

Morales won Bolivia's presidential election on Sunday and takes office January 22. Some have speculated that Morales, who has called for the nationalization of the oil and gas industries, could try to block foreign companies from developing projects in Bolivia.

Companies that bought bidding rules are Brazil's EMPX Siderúrgica Brasil, China's Luneng Shandong Group, European steel giant Mittal Steel (NYSE: MT), Argentina's Siderar and India's Jindal Steel & Power.

Mutún covers 60 sq km and boasts estimated reserves of 40Bt iron ore.

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