Bolivia to revise new mining law

Bolivia to revise new mining law

Bolivian President Evo Morales greets Carlos Mamani, who survived a mine collapse in Chile and was trapped underground for months with 32 Chileans miners. (Image from Flickr)

Bolivian President Evo Morales and leaders of the National Federation of Mining Cooperatives have formed a commission to quickly redraft at least three controversial articles of a new mining law adopted late last month.

The current legislation sparked last week violent protests among the country's independent miners, leaving two dead and at least 60 injured. The miners were objecting to the law because it doesn’t allow them to associate with private companies, whether domestic or foreign, though it gives them tax benefits.

On Monday the government said it has discovered at least 42 illegal contracts between co-op miners and multinational firms, which — added to the deadly clashes last week— led to the dismissal of the minister of mines Mario Virreira. In his place, Morales designated Cesar Navarro whose first task will be to take an audit of the illicit contracts.

Evo Morales, South America's first indigenous President, has become an outspoken critic of the industrialized world. One of his first measures when taking office in 2006 was to raise mining taxes and nationalize the country’s key natural gas industry. He has also expropriated the telecommunications and electricity sectors, and seized and nationalized the assets of Vancouver-based South American Silver Corp. (TSX:SAC) two years ago.

Morales also made waves when defined the nation's mineral deposits as "blessings" in a 2012 law, aimed to protect the right of nature "to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities".

Though rich in mineral and energy resources, data from the Unicef shows that Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and the weakest economy in all of South America.

The newly formed commission, reports Prensa Latina (in Spanish) is scheduled to present the proposed amendments to the mining law in Parliament by April 18.