LA PAZ (Reuters) - Clashes between rival miners broke out at a Bolivian tin and zinc mine owned by global commodities giant Glencore late Thursday and at least 15 people were hurt, local media reported Friday.
The violence at the Colquiri mine, located about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of the administrative capital La Paz, followed a two-week standoff at the mine where members of independent mining cooperatives were demanding new areas to work.
A similar battle for control of the state-owned Huanuni tin mine ended in clashes that killed 17 people six years ago.
State news agency ABI and radio station Erbol reported the violence broke out at about 8 p.m. local time (0000 GMT) Thursday when employees of Glencore’s Sinchi Wayra unit and local residents tried to take back control of the mine.
There were unconfirmed reports that one person was killed during Thursday’s unrest, which followed several days of government-led negotiations that failed to get an agreement over the future of the mine.
Sinchi Wayra’s miners are calling for state mining company Comibol to “nationalize” the mine, which is owned by Comibol and operated by Sinchi Wayra under license, or restore state control to day-to-day operations.
Members of the cooperatives, however, want to maintain the current arrangement and get access to new areas of the site.
The leftist government of President Evo Morales, which has increased state control over energy and mineral resources, proposed restoring Comibol control to part of the site and leaving the rest for the cooperatives, but neither side agreed.
“We don’t want another Huanuni, where 17 people were killed and 40 injured because of a similar problem. The government has to act and ... give all natural and strategic resources back to the state,” said Mining Federation leader Cecilio Gonzales.
A representative of the cooperatives, Albino Garcia, blamed the government for the conflict, saying officials had “failed to respect agreements to preserve the areas granted to the cooperatives.”
Colquiri, which is one of three mines operated by Sinchi Wayra subsidiary in Bolivia, produced 2,000 tonnes (2204.62 tons) of tin concentrate last year, according to Comibol data.
Reporting by Carlos Alberto Quiroga; Writing by Helen Popper; Editing by John Picinich