Bolivia: Gov't, indigenous communities agree to nationalise mining company

August 5, 2012

Bolivian President Evo Morales applauded on July 10 the agreement struck with indigenous peoples from the mining town of Mallku Khota, in the north of Potosi, to nationalise a Canadian-owned mining company.

Morales said the agreement ensures the state can continue recuperating natural resources to benefit the Bolivian people.

The head of state met with leaders from the ayllus (indigenous communities) in this region that were demanding the concession granting to the Canadian company South American Silver (SAS) be annulled.

The agreement says the mine will be nationalised via a Supreme Decree.

Morales said: “These natural resources belong to the state, and therefore to the Bolivian people, which is why the national government should carry out the process of exploitation and exploration, with the participation of the indigenous communities in this zone; that is what we have agreed upon.”

Morales lamented that confrontations had taken place between different indigenous community groups, one side in support of the mining activities of the Canadian company. He said this confrontation was provoked by the transnational company.

“Here there has been a problem,” Morales said. “Unfortunately the so-called transnational companies are like that, these companies pit brothers, in-laws, cousins, neighbours, brothers from the same ayllu against one another. I also want to recognise that I too am responsible having not seen what was occurring.”

He recalled the conflicts that were generated during the colonial era to facilitate the exploitation of natural resources. “We have to remember our history, our grandparents who before the foundation of the republic gave their lives … for the homeland and Mother Earth.”

Morales said the Bolivian people come from a family that defends natural resources and life, and called for the creation of new leaders that can continue this tradition.

“The people need honest and clean leaders that defend life, the homeland and natural resources,” he said, highlighting the youthfulness and preparation of the leaders of the Mallku Khota ayllus.

Regarding the death of indigenous community member Jose Mamani, the president affirmed that those that go against life should be “punished”. He urged the public ministry to carry out a meticulous investigation.

He also expressed his solidarity with the family of the deceased and ratified the government's decision to help the family.

The agreement also suspends all exploration and prospecting activities and all forms of exploitation of minerals in the deposit.

The document sets out that the state will take control of the Mallku Khota mining centre along the entire productive chain.

It guarantees peaceful co-existence, social peace and free movement within all the communities in the region, as well as stating that houses that were occupied must be returned to their legitimate owners.

It also establishes that the public ministry should attend to its functions by investigation the events that unfolded in the region. It also promotes the elaboration and approval of a new mining law.

The nationalisation agreement ended a week of conflicts by community members who demanded the expulsion of the Canadian company.

In the midst of the conflict, community members held seven people hostage. Among them were technicians that worked with the foreign company and a police officer. They were freed on July 8 after negotiations between the government and indigenous leaders from the area.

[Abridged from a Bolivian Information Agency (ABI) report. It is reprinted from Bolivia Rising.]

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