Bolivia nationalises Swiss smelter plant

AFP, May 3 - A day after taking over three power companies, President Evo Morales on Sunday nationalised an antimony smelter plant owned by Sinchi Wayra, a subsidiary of Swiss commodities and raw-materials supplier Glencore, an official said.

"From here on, the Vinto-Antimonio plant reverts to state ownership," Minister of the Presidency Oscar Coca said. He said Morales had signed the nationalisation decree.

Located in the western, Andean department of Oruro, the smelter plant began as state owned but was privatised in two successive steps in 1999 and 2001 and bought by US firm Allied Deals.

It was sold in 2002 to former Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada, who in turn resold it to Sinchi Wayra in 2005.

"Over the past few years, the plant became productively idle, was practically headed for dismantling and attracted no investment, giving rise to conditions detrimental to this government's policies," Coca said.

Other Glencore assets in Bolivia were nationalised in 2007.

The smelter's nationalisation follows that of three, privately-owned French, British and Bolivian power companies on Saturday, and the announcement of negotiations for the takeover of a fourth one, also Bolivian-owned, in 120 days.

Since coming to office in January 2006, Morales has nationalised oil and gas companies, telecommunications and a tin foundry, in his expanding socialist agenda emulating his closest leftist ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

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