UPDATE 1-Protester dies in silver mine unrest in Bolivia
* Anti-mine protesters occupy Canadian company project * Five workers held at the site by demonstrators * One man killed in latest mine-related unrest LA PAZ, July 6 (Reuters) - A Bolivian man died and at least four others were hurt as protesters occupied a silver mining property belonging to South American Silver Corp in the Andean highlands, local media reported on Friday. Violence flared at the Malku Khota project on Thursday as authorities negotiated with peasant farmers holding five Bolivian employees hostage to demand the Canadian company leave. They also want the release of a leader, jailed for leading earlier protests. The Erbol radio network initially said the peasant farmer was shot dead during clashes with police. It later reported that doctors were unable to access the site to establish the cause of death. The government denied armed confrontations had taken place and said he died due to "mishandling" dynamite. "There were no clashes of any kind because the police sent there weren't carrying firearms," government minister Carlos Romero told local television. He said the government would persist with efforts to negotiate a solution to the stand-off, which involves groups of local peasant farmers either in favor or against the South American Silver project. Exploration work, in which the company plans to invest some $50 million, is expected to end within three years. The company describes it as "one of the world's largest undeveloped silver, indium and gallium deposits." South American Silver said it was not going anywhere, despite the pressure. A government report showed that only two of the 45 communities near the site were opposed to the project. "We have to keep up our exploration work here until 2015. At no time have we considered retreating or leaving the operation," the company's spokesman in Bolivia, Gonzalo Gutierrez, told reporters. It is the second time in recent weeks that protests have hit foreign-owned mining operations in the Andean country, where an upswing in social unrest and anti-government protests is testing leftist President Evo Morales. Last month, clashes between rival miners broke out at a Bolivian tin and zinc mine owned by global commodities giant Glencore after several weeks of protests. Morales responded by having the state take control of the mine's operations. This cooled tempers domestically but upset Glencore due to a lack of compensation.
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