Remarkably little is known about the true scope and nature of Bolivian gold mining, despite its growing importance to the country's economy.
“I have been in the gold mining business in Bolivia for 13 years, focusing on production. I have a network of very rich gold mines that I want to bring into production. With an investment of $2,500,000 I can produce over 100 kilos per month. That sum will cover one production front. What I am looking for is to team up with an investment group/investor. There are also copper mine opportunities as well. The video is of myself in one of my producing gold mines.”
Gold mining has surged in Bolivia over the last 15 years, a lot that gold is now the country's third-largest export, trailing handiest zinc and natural gas, But as mining activities damage extra of the environment, the Bolivian government's potential to keep this growth in test is being tested, The large majority of the gold mining is small-scale and cantered in northern Bolivia, within the Amazon, where the nation's presence th ins out rapidly, New mining concessions are ordinarily alluvial, with many involving big boats known as dragas that sit down in a river, sucking up the silt under them and processing it for gold. Since they may be cellular and require relative ly Iiltle capital to get going in assessment to tunnelling for gold, they're tough to capture or stop. Almost all of this mining is in the hands of politically effective mining cooperatives. The word "cooperative" is something of a misnomer. These groups are very often hierarchical, and the rights and rewards within them unequal. In some ways, cooperative miners resemble casual manners, but they have criminal identify to the ir piece of land. They typically practice a high-manpower shape of mining, with questionable environmental practices. But there is a huge range of cooperatives a few are small circle of relatives operat ions, whilst others are big businesses in all but name. Among Bolivia's gold miners, it 's not unusual to have bosses who very own concessions and contract Iaborers who get hold of none of the advantages or rights of being a cooperative member.
Mining cooperatives are effective ly a sponge for unemployment, and on every occasion there's a drought, a drop in commodity fees, or a brand new coca eradication campaign, out-et-paintings laborers be a part of them. The cooperatives have swarmed to gold mining in recent years. "There's large cash being made: says Hector Cordova, the previous president of COMIBOl, the stale mining organization, in an interview in la Paz. "In the branch of la Paz, there are very, very rich [gold] reserves in the palms of cooperatives." The political strength of the gold mining cooperatives stems in element from their numbers: There are presently some 130,000 cooperative miners in Bolivia, the bulk of that are gold miners. Add on the contracted employees who do not remember as cooperative members, and gold mining bills to a big a part of operating-age guys in Bolivia. Including their dependents adds up to a swath of Bolivia's populace of 11 million. And they stick together like a public quarter union. "The gold cooperatives do net went a unmarried one in every of them to lose ground," says Cordova. "That's their strength in negotiation. that's how they stress the authorities and get what they want: The end result has been a gold rush Mining concessions have elevated precipitously within the Bolivian Amazon, whilst cooperative miners have determined positions in the government. The number of cooperatives has more or less doubled inside the remaining 10 years, bringing the quantity of gold cooperatives up to over 1,600 whilst annual gold exports have exceeded $1 billion. Miners are also flouting regulations, as cooperatives freely and with organizations to get funding and machinery. The majority of them operate without environmental licenses.
The government of President Eve Morales has made a few attempts to formalize this booming industry. In 2010, it installation EBO, a state organisation to buy gold produced via cooperatives. "It was a way now not to produce, but to manipulate what become being produced, and to try to get better conditions for small-scale manufacturers," says Vladimir Diez, a Bolivian academic. "They wanted to make sure that the gold turned into being channelled in higher monetary and institutional terms, both for small-scale producers and the country." But it by no means made any serious impact. A COMIBOL document from 2017 says that EBO bought simply 18 kilograms of gold that year, about forty pounds-out of greater than 25 heaps that have been exported.
Although the government has introduced rigid strategies to standardize the award ing of mining concessions, it nevertheless accepts the bulk of applications, says one civil servant, who asked to stay anonymous to talk freely. The right to previous consultation, brought in the new 2009 constitution to give nearby groups the right to show down projects, together with mining concessions, on their land, has no real strength. Once things have gotten that far, the civil servant says, projects almost constantly pass through. The state gets complaints about unlawful mining operations and makes forays to investigate, occasionally making arrests, but it lacks the ability to do mo re. As the civil servant calls it , "We are fighting a monster." Bolivia's gold fever is in part the result of a loss of job creation. While maximum media attention frequently makes a speciality of the presence of Chinese and Colombian companies that partner with cooperatives, locals who want to paintings also help many operations. In that sense, and as the cooperatives themselves argue, they're doing nearby economies a service. But this ignores all of the environmental damage being done. "In river gold mining, we are speakme approximately moving tremendous quantities of earth, deforestation, redirecting the waft of rivers, growing lagoons-various processes that are almost irreversible: says Danilo Bocangel, director of MEDMIN, an environmental foundation this is presently working with the Ministry of Mining to take a look at the usage of mercury in Bolivian gold production. "Mercury is used indiscriminately, in extremely good portions, and in general now not recovered but positioned out into the environment, into the soil and the water," Bocangel provides. Imports of mercury to Bolivia multiplied twentyfold between 2010 and 2015; regardless of its smaller size, Bolivia is currently the third-largest mercury polluter in Latin America. Miners in Colombia and Peru- of the largest gold manufacturers inside the vicinity-still use mercury, but in a extra controlled manner. Thanks to better technologies, greater mercury may be retained and recycled in mining operations, while both the Colombian and Peruvian governments have passed laws proscribing it s import and use. "In Colombia," he says, "mercury is almost a controlled substance."
If the Ministry of Mining chooses to make its findings public, MEDMIN's research will upload to what little public studies is to be had about the state of gold mining in Bolivia. Since the mining regularly happens in faraway areas, miners view outsiders with suspicion, if now not hostility. The end result of th is caginess, says Diaz, is that remarkably little is known approximately the actual scope and nature of Bolivian gold mining, in spite of its growing importance to the country's economy. Part of the trouble is that gold production isn't coming from a handful of massive mines, but rather masses of small operations, some of which can be concept to be tang led in other illegal activities such as money laundering and drug trafficking, "No one has spent the time inside the region to f igure out the internet works: Where the gold comes from, where it goes, how it will become felony, who exports it," says Dial. "Because it's an illegal business, it's now not easy to locate this out. It has grow to be greater violent."
With gold prices on the upward push again, will the scenario in Bolivia reach, and possibly even exceed, the extent of Peru, the website of the worst effect s of rampant gold mining in Latin America? "I hope now not. But I worry it will: says Cord ova. "When the charge rises like this, everyone's eyes shoot open: taxi drivers, bricklayers, farmers. They all get the concept of going into gold mining. There is not any limit on how far it can move"