Bolivia’s refined tin production from January to September 2015 totalled 11,500 tonnes, up 1.3% year-on-year, despite financial problems in the country’s tin mining sector, according to local news sources. Whilst the Colquiri tin-zinc mine and Vinto smelter recorded profits, Bolivia’s largest tin mine, Huanuni, is expected to have ended 2015 with a US$ 20 million annual loss.
The Huanuni mine, which currently has 4,100 employees, is struggling from a combination of low tin prices and high labour costs. Authorities had considered the possibility of reducing personnel through early retirement, but protests from workers forced authorities to guarantee job security. The company claims that the Vinto smelter currently lacks the capacity to process tin concentrates it receives from across the mining district, which has led to delays to payments. The company estimates it is owed an estimated $ 10 million for tin currently stored at the smelter.
However, despite the challenging financial situation, the President of the state mining company, Comibol, Marcelino Quispe, guaranteed the payment of double bonuses to Huanuni mine workers at the end of 2015. He argued that the deficit is not unmanageable due to monthly revenues of between 10 and 15 million dollars from the mine. The financial situation is also expected to improve with the installation of a new mill, which should increase production capacity.