Analyst: Revoking Non Metallic concession illegal

Bnamericas Published: Tuesday, September 07, 2004
It is illegal for Bolivia's mining and hydrocarbons ministry to revoke the Uyuni salt flat mining concession from the Non Metallic Minerals subsidiary of Chilean non-metallic miner Quiborax, sector analyst Alvaro Rejas told BNamericas. "The whole tender process was completely legal and the situation has been discussed in different forums," said Rejas, refuting Bolivian officials' arguments that there were irregularities in awarding the concession. According to the analyst, the problem has been exaggerated in the case of Salar de Uyuni, with the legal framework falling by the wayside as involved parties focus on other political and regional issues where feelings run high. Non Metallic mined borates and ulexite on Salar. "These are evidently not the best procedures if you take the current law into account," he said. There have been complaints from residents in the area that the company is continuing to exploit the Salar, but a Non Metallic official told BNamericas the company is simply working with already mined minerals which had been stored in the area before the concession was revoked. "And so its transport is absolutely legal and the authorities know about this," he said. At the same time, the official believes the complaints are part of a smear campaign against the company. "Dissatisfied with what they have already done, they are now simply flogging a dead horse," he said. The company has not operated in the area since the concession was revoked. "We are obeying the law - it would be foolish to work there, knowing the Bolivian state is there in the middle," he said. Southwest Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni in Potosí department is the largest salt flat in the world, with a total surface area of 10,000 sq. km. containing minerals such as lithium, borax, boron and sulphur.

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