LA PAZ – Bolivia’s government signed a decree nationalizing a tin and zinc mine owned by Swiss commodities giant Glencore after a dispute among rival factions of miners left 20 injured.
Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, who had announced the plans to nationalize the Colquiri mine 10 days ago, signed the expropriation decree Wednesday due to President Evo Morales’ attendance at the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro.
The decree states that the government “assumes control over the Colquiri mining complex, as well as direct leadership and management over the deposits” that had been granted to Sinchi Wayra, a Glencore subsidiary.
“The Sinchi Wayra company ... is leaving,” Garcia Linera said, announcing that state-owned Corporacion Minera de Bolivia, or Comibol, would take over the installations on Wednesday.
Since coming to power in 2006, the Morales’ socialist government has expropriated nearly 20 companies in the oil and gas, mining, electricity, telecommunications, cement and other sectors.
Colquiri, located 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of La Paz, has nearly 400 workers and is the third Glencore unit to be expropriated in Bolivia; Morales’ government had expropriated two Glencore-owned smelter plants in 2007 and 2010.
The vice president signed the decree after the resolution of a dispute sparked by his announcement of the nationalization plans. Last week, Comibol miners and members of mining cooperatives hurled rocks and dynamite at each other in clashes that left more than 20 injured.
Under the decree, the government takes over some of Glencore’s deposits and leave other areas for the cooperatives, which originally opposed the measure out of fear that the expropriation action would extend to their areas.
Glencore controls other mines in Bolivia, including one in the Potosi region whose offices were recently occupied by members of cooperatives demanding the revision of their contracts.
Garcia Linera said mining revenues amount to around $3.7 billion annually compared with $600 million in 2005, “when everything was in foreign hands.” EFE