Morales annuls mining, banking and investment laws in Bolivia

Bolivian President Evo Morales Sunday announced the Bolivian government will end current mining, banking and investment laws to increase state control of those sectors.

Dorothy Kosich, Monday , 02 May 2011

Official Bolivian news agency ABI reported Sunday President Evo Morales issued a decree that would bury 20 years of neoliberalism in the nation's mining industry.

Essentially Morales is ending market rule and privatization of mines contained in Supreme Decree 21060, which was enacted in 1985 by former Bolivian President Victor Paz Estensoro.

Morales also annulled laws pertaining to banking and investment in order to increase state control of those sectors.

"The best legacy of the Bolivian people is to be anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and anti-neoliberal," he declared.

At a special Workers Day ceremony Sunday miners burned a black box symbolizing the end of the old mining legislation.

At a mass rally Sunday in the Coliseum in Huanuni, Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera urged Huanuni miners to "take control" of the leadership of the Miners' Federation to promote state mining and economic activity in Bolivia. He also called on miners to "preserve and protect" the struggles of indigenous peoples, workers and peasants which "form the backbone of our country."

Last month Bolivian mining unions asked the state to "recover" the silver, zinc, lead and tin mines currently operated by private companies.

However, Deputy Mining Minister Hector Cordova told Bloomberg that a new mining bill to be sent to the Bolivian Congress won't substantially change contract conditions for Coeur d'Alene Mines, which operates the nation's largest pure silver mine, San Bartolome; Pan America Silver's San Vincente silver mine; and Orvana Minerals.

Nevertheless, he said the government will seek to renegotiate contracts with Glencore International, whose Sinchi Wayra subsidiary controls five small and medium-size mines in Bolivia, including Porco, and will sign a contract with Sumitomo Metal Mining, which operates the San Cristobal silver-lead-zinc mine.

Cordova told Bloomberg that the new legislation is aimed at giving state miner Comibol a controlling interest in joint ventures and forces companies to return mining concessions which aren't being developed.

Meanwhile, the new mining law will require mining companies "to pay a little more in royalties because metals prices have risen," he added.

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