Bolivia: government yields to indigenous demands in Mallku Khota mining conflict

Following a wave of protests by local Aymara campesinos that left one dead earlier this month, Bolivian President Evo Morales agreed to revoke the permit for the Mallku Khota mining project in PotosĂ­ department July 10. The accord was announced after a gathering at the presidential palace of Aymara leaders from both sides of the conflict—those who oppose the project as a threat to local waters, and those who support it as source of new employment. The situation escalated after indigenous opponents of the mine detained—”kidnapped,” in English-language media coverage—seven mining company employees. Under the new deal, the concessions granted to Canada-based South American Silver in 2004 will be cancelled, and the Mining Ministry will explore the possibilities of creating a state entity to exploit deposits of the rare element indium at Mallku Khota. Aymara leader Cancio Rojas, who had been jailed after the “kidnapping” incident, was released July 15, after paying a fine of 10,000 bolivianos (about $1,500), in an apparent compromise solution. Local Aymara comunarios said the mine personnel were illegally operating on their ayllu (communal land holding). (OCMAL, July 19; La RazĂłn, July 15; EFE, July 11)

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