Bolivia to "gradually" evict Cerro Rico miners

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Bolivia's government will "gradually" move mining cooperative workers away from hazardous areas of Cerro Rico in the southern Potosí highlands, vice president Álvaro García Linera said.

Other workers have left the areas, at an altitude of 4,400m and prone to cave-ins, for other zones with "great" mineral potential, García Linera said. No time limit has been set for the full eviction of miners from the area, he added.

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"There is a mineralized area behind it that could be worked. It's the only way we've managed to reach a consensus," García Linera told reporters in La Paz. "There's no deadline. Experience will achieve that."

Bolivia's mining ministry and the Potosí mining cooperative federation, an umbrella group for 17 cooperatives, reached an agreement in July to move miners away from the top of Cerro Rico. Under the terms of the accord, state mining company Comibol will award 200 concessions in other areas to cooperative members.

The mining ministry said it would take until early 2015 before all the miners can be moved, as the new areas will need roads and other basic services. Mining accidents are common in Cerro Rico. Three miners were reported to have been killed by underground gases in October last year.

President Evo Morales, who has seized mining operations from companies including Glencore and South American Silver since taking office in 2006, has pledged to strengthen Bolivia's 434 cooperatives, which employ most of the country's 79,000 miners.

Cooperative protests against a new mining code left at least two dead in March. The Bolivian senate in May passed the new code, which seeks to assert state control over future mining contracts.

Bolivia, a major zinc, silver and tin producer, boosted metals exports 40% to over US$2.8bn in 2013, according to the mining ministry. The country, which is home to mines operated by Pan American Silver, Sumitomo, Coeur Mining, Orvana Minerals and Franklin Mining, produced 11,400t tin, 430,000t zinc and 39.7Moz silver in 2012, according to industry associations.

BNamericas will host its 2nd Mexico Mining Summit in Mexico City on October 1-2.