Bolivian tin miners clash in La Paz, killing one person

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 18, 2012 7:00 PM
Bolivian tin miners clash in La Paz, killing one person

LA PAZ (Reuters) - Rival miners from Bolivia's No. 2 tin mine, Colquiri, hurled sticks of dynamite and rocks at each other in the city of La Paz on Tuesday, killing one person and injuring nine others in an hour-long street battle.

Leftist President Evo Morales had seized control of the mine in June in an unsuccessful bid to end a conflict between unionized workers and independent miners.

The government took over operations at Colquiri after miners fought for weeks over control of the site, located about 200 km (125 miles) south of La Paz. The nationalization drew an angry response from the mine's former owner, global commodities trader Glencore.

Miners remain at odds over who has the right to exploit the richest part of the mine's resources.

A dynamite explosion ended up killing one unionized miner on Tuesday while another eight miners and a passerby were hurt in the clashes, Deputy Interior Minister Jorge Perez said.

"We lament this situation and call on both sides to abandon these extremist, radical and intransigent attitudes," Perez told a news conference, adding that the government aims to mediate the dispute starting on Wednesday.

Reuters witnesses said thousands of independent miners entered La Paz around midday and threw dynamite at several dozen unionized miners who were standing guard outside the Miners' Federation labor organization and responded later with their own dynamite sticks. Both sides also hurled rocks.

The unionized workers said they will demand that Morales expel the independent cooperative miners from Colquiri, where they were allowed to continue mining one section of the site under June's government-brokered accord.

Production losses at the mine have topped $5 million since the dispute reignited at the beginning of the month.

Colquiri should produce about 3,000 tonnes of tin concentrates this year, representing about 15 percent of estimated national output of some 21,000 tonnes. Most of the rest of Bolivia's tin is produced at the state-run Huanuni mine.

Mining is Bolivia's second-biggest foreign currency earner after natural gas. Its most important metals export is silver, followed by zinc and tin.

(Reporting by Carlos Quiroga and David Mercado; Writing by Hilary Burke; Editing by Leslie Adler and Prudence Crowther)