Bolivian tin miners clash in La Paz, seven hurt

LA PAZ, Sept 18 Wed Sep 19, 2012 2:02am IST

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LA PAZ, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Rival miners from Bolivia's No. 2 tin mine, Colquiri, hurled sticks of dynamite and rocks at each other in the city of La Paz on Tuesday, injuring at least seven people in an hour-long street battle.

Leftist President Evo Morales had seized control of the mine in June in a bid to end a conflict between unionized workers and independent miners.

The government took over operations at Colquiri after miners fought for weeks over control of the site, located about 200 km (125 miles) south of La Paz. The state takeover drew an angry response from the mine's former owner, global commodities trader Glencore.

Miners remain at odds over who has the right to exploit the richest part of the mine's resources.

"Dialogue must be imposed, the government is summoning both sides because no agreement can be reached until there's pacification," Deputy Interior Minister Jorge Perez told a news conference, adding six miners and one passerby were hurt in Tuesday's clashes.

Reuters witnesses said thousands of independent miners entered La Paz around midday and threw dynamite at several dozen unionized miners who were standing guard outside the Miners' Federation labor organization.

The unionized workers said they will demand that Morales expel the independent cooperative miners from Colquiri, where they were allowed to continue mining one section of the site under June's government-brokered accord.

Production losses at the mine have topped $5 million since the dispute reignited at the beginning of the month.

Colquiri should produce about 3,000 tonnes of tin concentrates this year, representing about 15 percent of estimated national output of some 21,000 tonnes. Most of the rest of Bolivia's tin is produced at the state-run Huanuni mine.

Mining is Bolivia's second-biggest foreign currency earner after natural gas. Its most important metals export is silver, followed by zinc and tin.

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