Glencore fumes over Bolivian mine grab

Swiss-based commodities giant Glencore protested on Friday against the Bolivian government's nationalisation of the Colquiri tin and zinc mine.

“Glencore strongly protests the action taken by the government of Bolivia and reserves its rights to seek fair compensation pursuant to all available domestic and international remedies,” it said in a statement, adding it would work to ensure an orderly handover of control.

Glencore responded after receiving a signed decree from the Bolivian government that the mine in La Paz province was to be nationalised with immediate effect.

Since 2005, the mine has been operated by a Glencorce subsidiary, Sinchi Wayra, in accordance with rights granted by the Bolivian government, Glencore said.

It said that Colquiri has paid royalties, taxes and fees to the Bolivian state of more than $70 million.

The mining heavyweight, based in Baar, central Switzerland, said it learned of the proposed nationalisation just as it was finalising the renegotiation of its mining contracts with Bolivia, which would have led to at least another $56 million of investment for Colquiri over the next five years.

Glencore said under the deal it would have invested another $160 million into Bolivia, on top of the $250 million it has to date, and that Bolivian government would have got 55 percent of profits.

“The action taken by the government of Bolivia will pose a number of serious questions relating to the government’s future policy towards foreign investment in the mining sector,” said the company.

Glencore said its immediate focus “is to seek an orderly handover of control of Colquiri with the Bolivian authorities and to ensure the well-being of its staff.”

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At least 19 illegal miners killed at subsidiary of Swiss-based Glencore

At least 19 illegal miners were killed on Thursday after part of a copper mine collapsed in southeastern DR Congo, Swiss-based mining giant Glencore said.

At least 19 illegal miners killed at subsidiary of Swiss-based Glencore
Photo: AFP

The incident happened when two galleries caved in at a mine in the Kolwezi area operated by Kamoto Copper Company (KCC), a subsidiary of Glencore.

“Tragically there were 19 fatalities today, with possible further unconfirmed fatalities,” Glencore said in a statement, which said there had been recurrent problems with illicit mining on its concessions.

Other reports suggest the death toll could be higher. 

The Congolese site Actualite.CD reported at least 36 deaths.

“The illegal artisanal miners were working two galleries in benches overlooking the extraction area. Two of these galleries caved in,” the company said.

Glencore said KCC had observed a “growing presence” of illegal miners, with on average 2,000 people a day intruding on its operating sites.

“KCC urges all illegal miners to cease from putting their lives at risk by trespassing on a major industrial site,” Glencore said.

Illegal mining is common and frequently deadly in Democratic Republic of Congo, where safety is often poor and risk-taking high.

Figures indicating the scale of the problem are sketchy, given that many mines are illegal and remote.