LA PAZ – The groups of Bolivian miners vying for control of the Andean Colquiri mine reached an agreement that resolves their conflict by arriving at a division of its richest ore vein, Government Minister Carlos Romero said Sunday.
The agreement, which was reached on Saturday night, is “historic” and the leaders of the miners working for the state and the private cooperatives acted with “serenity and maturity” and decided to work together to exploit the disputed deposits of zinc and tin, Romero said.
The Union Federation of Mineworkers of Bolivia, or FSTMB, whose workers are employed by the state, dropped its demand for the entire Colquiri mine to be solely controlled by the government and agreed for a part of its best vein of metals be exploited by the workers of the Federation of Mining Cooperatives, or Fencomin.
The Colquiri mine was expropriated in June by President Evo Morales from the Swiss firm Glencore and since then it has been the target of a confrontation between those two mining sectors that worsened over the past three weeks with a number of violent incidents.
The first point of the accord establishes the commitment of the groups to recover “the coexistence in peace and harmony of the entire population of Colquiri,” located 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of La Paz, where mutual threats of new clashes had been made.
An FSTMB miner died 12 days ago and several others were injured when demonstrators from the private cooperatives threw dynamite charges at a union office in La Paz, but so far who was responsible for the death has not been definitively clarified.
The Bolivian Workers Central, or COB, supported with a partial strike lasting 72 hours the FSTMB miners and had warned that it would call for an open-ended strike and a march from the altiplano, or high plateau, region to La Paz if the Morales administration accepted the cooperative members’ demand to give them Colquiri’s richest vein to exploit.
The COB leadership, however, hailed the agreement to put an end to the conflict and reduce the tension at the mine, which the FSTMB miners were continuing to occupy as they awaited their leaders’ reports on the signing of the accord.
The cooperative members asked the government to return to the mine on Sunday when the other group fully demobilizes.