Workers stage hunger strike at Glencore Bolivia zinc mine

Bnamericas Published: Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Workers went on strike at one of Glencore's Bolivian zinc mines to pressure for the ouster of one of the executives, a union leader said.

Workers began a hunger strike at the Bolívar mine in Oruro department, a unit of Glencore's Sinchi Wayra, to demand the removal of general manager Juan Carlos Trillo, Bolívar union leader Germán Chaparro said. The union has informed both the company and the labor ministry, he said.

The union accuses Trillo of cutting back on worker benefits and of being responsible for an accident that led to the death of a miner at the mine, Chaparro said during a broadcast press conference. The workers gave Trillo 48 hours to leave, he said.

A Glencore spokesman did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Glencore has announced production cuts at several of its operations in the face of slumping zinc prices. The strike comes after labor unrest in Bolivia last year curtailed production.

Mining exports dropped 14.7% to US$1.74bn last year after state company Comibol shut down both its Karachipampa silver-lead smelter and the El Mutún iron ore mine.

Bolivia, a major zinc and tin producer, plans to invest US$1.97bn in its metallurgical and mining industries by 2020. Bolivia invested US$204mn in its mining industry last year, mostly in lithium projects.

President Evo Morales, who was sworn in for a third consecutive term last year, seized mining operations from companies including Glencore, South American Silver and Jindal Steel after first taking office in 2006 in a bid to strengthen state control over the Andean nation's economy.

Bolivia, which is also home to mines operated by Orvana Minerals, Sumitomo and Franklin Mining, produced 19,287t tin, 407,332t zinc, 82,131t lead, 7,549t copper and 41.2Moz silver in 2013, the most recent available figures, according to the mining ministry.

(This story was corrected on June 15th, 2016, to show labor unrest did not curtailed production at Panamerican Silver last year)

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