The eighth largest tin producer, EM Vinto has entered force majeure, as the Bolivan smelter struggles with sourcing coal from Peru and debt issues.

Trade across the two countries land border is severely restricted, as continued protests in Peru’s Puno region impact trade through various road blockages. The border town of Desaguadero, for example, has been brought to a standstill. Data from the Peruvian Foreign Trade Society show trade with Bolivia fell by two-thirds in January, compared with the same month the last year. Figures for February are expected to be even worse.

With trade restricted, the Bolivian state-owned smelter is struggling to source enough coal from Peru to power its smelter, triggering the force majeure. Production losses could reach up to 200 tonnes of tin per week. These protests have already had a material impact on tin supply; Minsur’s San Rafael mine is in the Puno region with suspended operations since mid-January.

This adds to mounting problems for Vinto, who are also facing financing issues in sourcing concentrate. It is reported that the country’s Huanuni and Calquiri mines have not supplied concentrate to the smelter for over two months as Vinto struggles to pay roughly US$ 90 million debt that has built up buying concentrates over the last few years. Huanani miners are reported to be protesting in La Paz demanding cancellation of the debt.

Our view: It’s been an unwelcome start to the year for Vinto, who would have hoped to rebound from their poor performance last year, alleviating some financing issues. Problems sourcing coal will persist as long as road blockages in Peru persist.  ITA continues to monitor the unrest in South America closely.