Mineworkers protest in Bolivia

4th September 2009 By: Francisca Pouiller - Creamer Media Correspondent: South America

BUENOS AIRES (miningweekly.com) – About 150 workers marched this week in Bolivia's capital, La Paz, demanding government intervention to disputes over two mines – one privately owned and one under government control.

The Himalaya mine, which produces  tungsten and is located 50 km south of La Paz, has been occupied by local peasants for the last two years.

Former workers in the mine under its owner, Bolivian businessman Fernando Killman, are demanding that the President Evo Morales' government take action to have the asset returned.

After 23 months without being able to work, 40 of the 105 workers Himalaya workers have been sleeping outside the Ministry of Economy for the last 16 days, to draw attention to their demands.

Local peasants who have taken over Himalaya believe the mine has been nationalised, and insist natural resources of the region belong to native communities.

They have even created a cooperative to exploit the mine.

The head of the Bolivian Corporation of Mining Exploitation, Jose Camacho Nogales, told the radio station FM Bolivia that the mine has been ransacked.

“This vandalism has caused the loss of legal security for private and international investments,” he said.

Workers insisted they “will not move” until an authority pays attention to them.

Secondly, workers formerly employed at the State-owned Huanuni mine, the largest deposit of tin in the country, are also contemplating sleeping on the street if their claims remain unheard by the government.

Hundreds of former cooperative workers of the mine demand jobs, after they lost their positions when Huanuni was nationalised in 2006.

The Ministry of Mining announced on Friday it would give jobs to 40 of these former workers.

During an interview in radio station Erbol, Mining Minister, Luis Alberto Echazú, said he did not understand why these 40 people had not been employed before, and said they would get their jobs back.

When, in 2006, the mine became a part of the Bolivian Mining Corporation, 3 200 cooperative miners remained as staff at the mine, while 800 were excluded.