October 8, 2012 / 9:17 PM / 8 years ago

Bolivia's No. 2 tin mine reopens after protests forced closure

LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivia’s second-largest tin mine reopened on Monday after sometimes-violent protests by rival workers kept the deposit shut for 37 days, officials at state mining company Comibol said.

Independent miners who took the Glencore's Colquiri mine gather at the Jesus Bermudez Stadium in Oruro in this file photo taken June 11, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

Bolivia’s leftist government took over operations at the Colquiri mine in June after weeks of labour demonstrations. The takeover drew an angry response from its former owner, global commodities trader Glencore.

But fighting between unionized Comibol workers and independent miners over who had the right to exploit the richest part of the mine’s resources flared up again last month, prompting a fresh string of protests that halted output.

In late September, the government brokered a new deal to resolve tensions between the rival miners by clarifying which parts of the mine each group could exploit.

Interior Minister Carlos Romero said military troops and police officers would stay at Colquiri “as long as necessary to ensure peace and security.”

A Comibol report said state miners went back to work early on Monday, focusing mainly on maintenance.

“In the coming days, this same week, mineral production will be completely normalized,” a company spokesman quoted the report as saying, adding that the independent mining cooperatives were also expected to resume work this week.

Official figures quantifying the loss to production were not immediately available. Comibol President Hector Cordova previously told Reuters the stoppage was resulting in a loss of more than $250,000 per day.

Cordova said Colquiri should produce about 3,000 tonnes of tin concentrates this year, representing about 15 percent of estimated national output. About half of Bolivia’s tin is produced at the state-run Huanuni mine.

Comibol, which has been running the deposit since it was returned to state control, has said the conflict at Colquiri could affect production at the Vinto smelter, which buys almost all its tin concentrate from that mine.

Mining is Bolivia’s second-biggest foreign currency earner after natural gas. Silver is its largest metals export, followed by zinc and tin.

Reporting by Carlos Quiroga; Writing by Hilary Burke; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer

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