MAC: Mines and Communities

Will Evo stick?

Published by MAC on 2005-12-23

Will Evo stick?

23rd December 2005

Evo Morales, the recently elected Indigenous president of Bolivia, faces a serious test: the bidding process to develop the gigantic El Mutún iron ore deposit in Santa Cruz department - seat of the country's wealthy business elite. Companies that have bought "bidding rules" are Brazil's EMPX Siderúrgica Brasil, China's Luneng Shandong Group, Mittal Steel, Argentina's Siderar, and India's Jindal Steel & Power. Will Evo try to block foreign companies from developing mining projects in Bolivia? Will El Mutún be nationalised? For many observers, El Mutún seems to be crucial test for the new government mining policies. But, already, Morales seems to be leaning backwards to allay the qualms of the minerals industry and its wealthy backers.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, the "left-wing" Néstor Kirchner has followed neo-liberal predecessor, Carlos Menem, without changing a comma of the law. In Venezuela, Carlos Chaves continues to proclaim his "new mining framework" but, on the ground, little seems to have changed.

Govt suspends bidding to develop El Mutún - Bolivia

by Harvey Beltrán

21st December 2005

Bolivia's government has delayed for 60 days plans to receive bids from up to five companies to develop the El Mutún iron ore deposit in Santa Cruz department, state mining company Comibol president Juan Cabrera told BNamericas.

"The process was put off but has not been cancelled and I believe the bidding process will go forward as planned. It's a normal procedure within the context of the change of government," he said.

The government delayed bidding "to solve any issue that could be questioned by the next government. We have managed this process with complete transparency," government news agency ABI quoted presidential minister Iván Avilés as saying.

According to the original plan, bids would have been received December 21 from interested groups.

But newspapers reported that before the government's announcement of the delay, the MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo) party of Bolivia's president-elect Evo Morales called upon the government to halt the process, warning that El Mutún would be nationalized if bidding continued.

The left-wing radical Morales won Sunday's presidential election and is due to take office January 22.

A government mining official who asked not to be named told BNamericas the decision to push back the bidding came as a result of pressure from mining cooperatives that plan to develop the deposit independently.

Other press reports cited a community leader in Santa Cruz department as saying that mining cooperatives supported by MAS were at odds with Santa Cruz department officials who want bidding to continue.

Cabrera said the process has always generated strong regionalist feeling among miners from the east of the country, including those from Santa Cruz, against those from the west, including those from the departments of Oruro and Potosí.

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.

"We are ideally expecting the five companies to submit offers on December 21," Abelardo Valenzuela, an executive with French bank BNP Paribas said earlier this month. Valenzuela is in charge of the bidding process.

El Mutún is one of the world's largest iron ore deposits, with some 40Bt of reserves over 60 sq km at an average content of 50% iron, according to Bolivia's government. The deposit is close to the Bolivia-Brazil border, 41km south of the city of Puerto Suárez, with access to the Atlantic Ocean via a series of waterways.

According to bidding rules, operations would have to start 3-4 years after project startup, reaching minimum production of 1.5Mt/y iron.

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.

Evo Morales eases fears of Bolivia's businessmen

by Associated Press

29th December 2005

President-elect Evo Morales seems to have gained crucial support from Bolivia's powerful business and civic leaders with a conciliatory meeting calculated to overcome widespread fears about the fiery former street activist's economic policies. The leftist Aymara Indian leader has been viewed with great suspicion by the Bolivian elite, but they applauded Tuesday night after Morales said his government would create a stable legal and economic environment to attract investment and create jobs.

"I do not want to harm anybody. I do not want to expropriate or confiscate any assets," Morales told the businessmen and civic leaders of Santa Cruz, a relatively wealthy city that has sought more autonomy in the very poor country. "I want to learn from the businessmen."

Morales promised to hold a referendum on their autonomy demands, and said he would quickly resolve a dispute over development of El Mutun, a rich iron mining project near the border with Brazil that would create some 2,000 jobs in the Santa Cruz area. Public bidding for the project had been postponed, angering regional leaders, after Morales and the outgoing government jointly agreed to take more time to learn the details.

"He promised more than what we asked for," said Gabriel Dabdoub, the president of the region's powerful chamber of commerce. "Let's now hope he will fulfill his promises."

Morales came to the meeting with Vice President-elect Alvaro Garcia Linera, a mathematician and university professor who has been a key adviser. Garcia served a five-year prison sentence until 1997 after being convicted of participating in failed guerrilla group. He also taught sociology in La Paz and had a political commentary television program.

Morales cemented his own image as a radical as one of the leaders of street protests that toppled two Bolivian presidents and forced the government to cancel plans to export natural gas and supply privatized water to El Alto, a poor neighbor of La Paz. But he and Garcia adopted a conciliatory tone Tuesday night.

"I do not have a professional education, but it is important that we cooperate," added Morales, who left school after the 11th grade. "You have the professional capacity, I have the social consciousness."

While the audience clearly included a number of invited and enthusiastic Morales supporters, many civic leaders applauded openly as well.

"I think Mr. Morales' stance is coherent and I am satisfied," said Juan Abuawad, president of the Forestal Chamber, which represents Bolivian timber companies. On Tuesday, Morales said he will cut his salary and those of the members of congress by half to create a fund that will be used to help finance health and education programs.

"We have decided to cut the president's salary to 14,000 or 15,000 bolivianos (US$1,675 or US$1,750; ?1,406 or ?1,469) a month because we all have to share the situation of our country," he told reporters, reports the AP.

El bocado de "El Mutún"

Andrés Soliz Rada


El bolo alimenticio de varias transnacionales, integrado por la fabulosa serranía de "El Mutún", al este del departamento de Santa Cruz, en plena frontera con Brasil, que contiene 40.000 millones de toneladas de mineral de hierro y 10.000 millones de toneladas de manganeso, ya estaba en sus gargantas. No se lo pudieron tragar porque la presión ciudadana logró recuperarlo del fondo de su garganta,

La licitación, que debía favorecer a las empresas brasileñas Sidersul y Vale do Río Doce Akes SA., estaba totalmente digitada. El grupo "Tumbar", de la familia "Monasterios", de Santa Cruz, vinculado al multimillonario brasileño, Eike Batista, ya había logrado un permiso para avanzar en la explotación de la serranía. Ahora tenía comprometido el respaldo de cuatro de los siete integrantes del comité de adjudicación del proyecto.

Lo insólito del caso, es que se pretendía que la explotación de 1.5 millones anuales de toneladas de hierro, para la fabricación de arrabio, se la hiciera con carbón vegetal, lo que implicaba la tala de 45 hectáreas diarias de bosque amazónico, que alcanzaría a 165 mil hectáreas anuales y 657 mil hectáreas en los 40 años de duración del proyecto.

Los depredadores afirmaban que su propuesta era la más ventajosa, al ofrecer fuentes de trabajo a 5000 motosierristas que, sin medida ni clemencia, derribarían árboles para convertirlos en combustible de la acería. Sin embargo, es más insólito todavía que a sólo 20 kilómetros del cerro cruce el gasoducto de Santa Cruz s San Pablo, lo que facilita el uso del gas natural como reductor del hierro, a fin de producir hierro esponja o palanquillas, cuyas utilidades son muy superiores a la sola comercialización del arrabio,

El secreto del enigma reside en que el arrabio debía servir como insumo a las acerías que Brasil tiene en la serranía de "El Urucum", hermana siamesa de "El Mutún", donde se producen derivados del mineral de hierro con diesel y termoelectricidad. De esta manera, la parte boliviana del yacimiento, en lugar de ser competitiva del Brasil, se convertía en su subsidiaria.

Al detenerse la licitación, se pudo conocer que la empresa Shandong Luneng, de China, ofrece invertir, en lugar de los 500 millones de dólares de los brasileños, 5.000 millones de dólares, que abarca la construcción de un moderno ferrocarril que atraviese el territorio boliviano hasta Tacna Perú, para, desde allí, exportar, a través del Océano Pacífico, productos elaborados para los crecientes mercados asiáticos.

La importancia de la oferta es de tal magnitud que Bolivia, por primera vez en su historia, tendría un ferrocarril que articule el oriente y el occidente de su territorio. Hasta el día de hoy, el país tiene una red oriental de ferrocarriles, conectada a Argentina y Brasil, y una red occidental, que le sirve para exportar minerales por puertos chilenos. Las redes oriental y occidental continúan separadas.

Muchos creen que la licitación de "El Mutún", en condiciones tan negativas para la ecología de Bolivia, era una contravención al protocolo de Kyoto, suscritos por Bolivia, en preservación de la capa de ozono. El atentado, a punto de consumarse, se detuvo por el abrumador triunfo del Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), de Evo Morales, en las elecciones presidenciales del 18 de diciembre pasado.

Morales, frente a quienes pretendían presentarlo como "enemigo" del desarrollo de Santa Cruz por coadyuvar a que la licitación se postergue, aseguró que ella se llevará adelante dentro de dos meses, pero se da por descontado que, en forma previa, se cambiará el Código de Minería, elaborado por el ex presidente Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, a la medida de sus intereses privados, y se prohibirá el uso del carbón vegetal en la reducción del hierro.

Tampoco es casual, finalmente, que empresarios brasileños, asociados a grupos oligárquicos de Santa Cruz, se hubieran adjudicado 600.000 hectáreas de bosques cercanos a "El Mutún", a fin de perpetrar el ecologicidio aquí denunciado.

Evo Morales apoya licitación del Mutún

APG Noticias

Diciembre 28, 2005

Santa Cruz, Bolivia -- Después de escuchar los planteamientos cruceños, el presidente electo de Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, prometió este martes, que su gobierno apoyará la licitación internacional del complejo siderúrgico Mutún, garantizará la Asamblea Constituyente y las autonomías.

Aclaró que el MAS, en ningún momento interfirió el proceso de licitación, por el contrario invitó públicamente para que un par de representantes de ese proceso, se incorporen a la comisión de transición, para obtener informes transparentes y de primera mano.

"Vamos a garantizar las autonomías. Vamos a garantizar la asamblea constituyente. Estamos en la obligación de dar paso al proceso de transformar Bolivia", mencionó Morales Ayma, distensionando los ánimos de los presentes en el recinto del Comité Cívico Cruceño, que llegaron con un pensamiento distinto.

Al referirse al tema del Mutún, dijo: "Apoyamos el proceso de la licitación del Mutún. Estamos en un proceso de transición, queremos tener documentos no solo del Mutún, sino que se integre uno o dos delegados a la comisión, porque se debe manejar con mucha transparencia.

Exhortó que los bolivianos estamos en la obligación de recuperar los recursos nacionales e industrializarlos. "Que las licitaciones y los contratos tengan principios de equilibrio, que el Estado, que la región se beneficien, que Bolivia se beneficie, pero que los inversionistas tienen todo el derecho de recuperar su inversión y obtener sus ganancias".

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