Bolivia agrees deal to control Glencore tin mine

BUENOS AIRES, June 19 (Reuters) - Bolivia's leftist government said on Tuesday it had reached a deal with rival miners to restore state control to a tin and zinc mine operated by global commodities giant Glencore, seeking to end weeks of conflict.

Hundreds of police and soldiers were deployed at the Colquiri mine last week following violent clashes between groups of workers at odds over the management of the site, which lies about 200 km (125 miles) from the administrative capital La Paz.

Government Minister Carlos Romero said a decree would be signed to hand mine operations to state mining company Comibol and leave part of the site in the hands of independent mining cooperatives that already work there.

"This is a historic agreement because it's going to allow the nationalization of Colquiri, respecting the work of employees as well as the cooperative miners," he said.

Colquiri, which is one of three mines operated by Glencore's Sinchi Wayra subsidiary in Bolivia, produced 2,000 tonnes of tin concentrate last year, according to Comibol data. The site is owned by Comibol and currently operated under license.

Sinchi Wayra exported minerals worth more than $300 million last year.

The dispute at Colquiri, which began when the mining cooperatives seized control of the site last month, underlines the difficulties President Evo Morales faces as he seeks to increase state control over the nation's mineral riches.

A similar battle for control of the state-owned Huanuni tin mine six years ago ended in clashes between rival groups of miners that killed 17 people.

Morales nationalized the Andean country's energy industry in 2006 and his government is working on a sweeping reform of mining legislation aimed at giving the state a bigger slice of the sector's profits.

Tuesday's deal was signed between the government, unions representing mining employees and leaders of the cooperative mining workers.

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