Category Archives: Mining

Kathryn Ledebur participates in Latin American Advisor Q & A on Mining Conflict

In September 9th’s edition of the Inter-American Dialogue’s Daily Publication “The Latin American Advisor”, Kathryn Ledebur, along with academics and policy analysts on Bolivia, participated in a featured Q & A on Bolivia’s mining conflict.

Read Kathryn’s response below:


Latin American Advisor Q&A: What is Behind the Strife Between Bolivia & Miners?

                                                                                                September 9, 2016

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AIN’s Kathryn Ledebur shares updates on the Cooperative Miners Conflict with Real News Network

On September 8, 2016, AIN Executive Director Kathryn Ledebur spoke with the Real News Network about updates in the Cooperative Miners Conflict. In particular, she explored the possibilities of future negotiations, investigations for the deaths of the 5 miners and Vice Minister Rodolfo Illanes, and the impacts of the conflict on future political developments.

To watch the full interview, click here.


Bolivian Government Regulates Cooperative Mining Sector with Executive Actions

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Bolivian Government Regulates Cooperative Mining Sector with Executive Actions

                                                                                                        September 2, 2016

Following the recent conflict with mining cooperatives, the Morales administration issued 5 decrees in a special cabinet meeting on September 1, 2016. Mining cooperatives escalated protests in August 2016 in retaliation against the new Mining Law and modifications to the Cooperatives Law. In particular, the mining cooperatives opposed efforts to limit direct contracts with private multilateral companies and allow unionization among cooperative members. The escalation of protests resulted in the murder of Deputy Interior Minister Rodolfo Illanes and five miners, four from bullet wounds.

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AIN in WSJ Coverage of Bolivia’s Mining Conflict

In a Wall Street Journal article entitled “Bolivia Aims to Boost Mining Oversight After Deadly Protests” (Sep. 1, 2016), AIN’s Kathryn Ledebur explains:

“‘Right now their case is significantly weakened,’ Kathryn Ledebur, an analyst and executive director of the Andean Information Network in Cochabamba, said of the cooperatives. ‘The government decrees within the current framework are reasonable. They are taking away some concessions but also providing social benefits and bringing people into the formal work force.'”

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Bolivian Political and Social Landscape: Primer for Pending Presidential Elections

As the presidential campaigns gain momentum, AIN outlines the political and social landscape in Bolivia to provide background to understand upcoming electoral debates.

President Evo Morales is running for a third term in the October 12, 2014 elections.  Critics argue he is not eligible to run for another consecutive term, but the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal ruled in his favor, and the opposition across the political spectrum lacks a strong, unifying candidate.  Four candidates have formally registered to run against Morales.

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Colquiri Conflict Continues

In late May 2012, conflict erupted in Colquiri, a mining district about 350km south of La Paz.  Salaried and cooperative miners who work in different areas of the same mine struggled to control territory.  Although the government, salaried workers, and cooperative miners reached an agreement on June 19th, conflict reemerged in September as cooperative and salaried workers continued to fight for control of the richest vein.  Tensions flared after cooperative miners killed a salaried miner and injured seven others during a march in La Paz, and Colquiri threatened to be a repeat of an incident in 2006 in Huanuni, Oruro that left sixteen people dead and 115 injured in a conflict over access to the richest veins.  The government issued a new decree that divided the mining rights equally between the salaried and cooperative miners, but tensions remain high in Colquiri.

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Mallku Khota Mining Mess: Analysis

Bolivian Mining Conflict in Mallku Khota: Analysis

The violent conflict around the Mallku Khota mining area and subsequent nationalization of the mineral deposit highlight the recurring issues in Bolivia of consultation, resource competition, and the role of transnational corporations.  The conflict is complex, and many aspects remain unclear.  An administration that ran on a platform against foreign exploitation of Bolivia’s rich resources inherited a contract with a corporation seeking to profit from one of the largest undeveloped silver and indium deposits in the world.  Communities with pre-existing conflicts in the area became further divided between those promised benefits from mineral exploitation and those that stood to lose more than they would gain if the project advanced to the exploitation stage.  Months of tension and hostility resulted between communities, police, and the mining company, causing in multiple injuries and the death of a protester.

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Timeline of Bolivian Mining Conflict in Mallku Khota

The several violent, reoccurring conflicts in northern Potosí over the presence of a Canadian mining company have finally been at least temporarily resolved by an agreement by the Morales government to rescind South American Silver’s mining concession.  After multiple violent clashes between community members, various demonstrations, a march to La Paz, three different hostage situations, and the shooting death of one community member during police intervention, the situation was finally resolved on July 10th with the signing of an agreement between community members and the government.  Among other things, the agreement reversed the Canadian company’s mining concession, promised compensation for injured community members, and guaranteed that the government would not take legal action against protesters, including those involved in the hostage situations.  An in-depth analysis of the events will follow this update.

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Is Bolivia Ready to Export Lithium?

On October 11, Bolivia’s Mining Minister Jose Pimentel stated that Bolivia plans to start production of lithium carbonate and potassium chloride for export this month, and expects a finalized product by January or February.[i]However, it is unlikely that Bolivia’s lithium carbonate will be available on the international market in the near future.

At an isolated pilot plant, Bolivian and international scientists have been working to develop a process to separate lithium from other minerals present in Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni salt flats.  The unique climatic conditions and mineral concentration of the Salar present special challenges, and it is unclear whether the extraction process has been perfected.  Between October and March the region receives significant rainfall, which could negatively affect evaporation and separation.  This separation process can take up to 18 months, even without foreseeable rainy season delays.[ii] Furthermore, a successful trial run at the pilot plant would represent the first time lithium carbonate has been produced outside a laboratory in Bolivia.

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