Roadblocks and violent protests have been reported in Bolivia in response to changes to laws governing co-operatives in the country, according to local news sources. Mining co-operatives play an important role in Bolivia, which produced 9,093 tonnes of tin-in-concentrate from mine operations in the first half of 2016, down 8% on the same period of 2015, according to recent government statistics. The co-operative share in total production was 17%.
The government’s recent amendments to the co-operative act include a chapter encouraging co-operative members to join a workers union. This has been rejected by the mining co-operatives over fears that this would cause conflict within the co-operatives. However, underlying issues have been raised relating to a lack of specific changes to the mining law lobbied for by the cooperatives. These include issues surrounding taxation, mining rights and a large residual debt from co-operatives to the state mining company, Comibol. One issue highlighted is current limits to the ability of co-operatives to associate with the private sector. Two of the most severe roadblocks have been lifted after further negotiations between Fencomin and the government were arranged for Wednesday.
ITRI View: While protesting by miners in Bolivia is not uncommon, the recent trouble stands out as it highlights the increasingly tense dynamic between the Bolivian government and the co-operative mining sector. Aside from the outlined regulatory disagreements, there is ongoing conflict and disagreement at the state-run Colquiri mine between salaried miners and the co-operative members working other parts of the mine. The low tin price has simply served to raise these issues to the fore as income from mining has seen a sharp decline. Despite the fall in mining output, Bolivia’s refined tin production rose 10% to 8,712 tonnes of refined tin production in first half of the year, helped by improving performance of the Vinto smelter’s Ausmelt furnace.