Bolivia to decide Canadian South American Silver mine's future based on indigenous referendum

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales announced he will consult the indigenous communities of the Altiplano before authorizing the eventual exploitation of the silver and indium deposit of Mallku Khota, currently under exploration by Canadian South American Silver (TSX:SAC).

The authority made ​​the announcement on the third day of the march led by indigenous, who departed from the southern department of Potosi, where South American Silver mine will be located, towards the nation’s capital, La Paz.

The consultation may also define whether the future mine, which will become the largest in the country, will be operated by the State, by the Canadian company or by a joint venture, said Minister of Mines, Mario Virreira, as Portal Minero reports.

About 3,000 protestors are expected to arrive in La Paz on Monday, concluding a march started on Tuesday, over 400 kilometres south of the capital. The main objective of the demonstration, say community leaders, is to have Morales deny exploitation rights to the Vancouver-based mining company.

However, Virreira was quoted as saying “the real motivation” behind the demonstration is to perpetuate illegal gold mining practices.

"The region residents have said they want [South American Silver] to continue its exploration activities and the only want to be consulted before the company starts operations," he added.

South American Silver was granted explorations rights in 2006, three years before Morales passed a law that establishes prior consultation with indigenous peoples for any mining project.

Since late 2010, mining concessions in Bolivia have been declared "special temporary licenses" until the approval of a new regulation, currently in the works, that will require all the companies operating in Bolivia to sign a joint venture deal with the State’s mining company Comibol.

Image: Silver and indium deposit of Mallku Khota, courtesy of South American Silver