McGill Research Group Investigating
Canadian Mining in Latin America

Don Mario, Bolivia

Key Data

Company:Orvana Minerals Corp Operational status:production Materials extracted:copper, gold Type of mine:open pit Main issues:biodiversity, indigenous rights, community relations


The Don Mario mine, operated by Empresa Minera Paititi, S.A, a subsidiary of Orvana Minerals Corporation recently came into commercial production on April 10, 2012 [1]. It is a small mine combining an underground and open-air pit with projected mine life between 6 and 10 years [2].

The mine is located in the Canton of San Juan, in the municipality of San Jose de Chiquitos and the province Chiquitos of Santa Cruz [2]. The closest community, San Juan, is located some 76km from the mine on the only road access.

The mine has been the root of much controversy due to its location in the Bosque Chiquitano tropical dry forest [3], [4]. This rare, globally significant ecosystem supports the headwaters of the Pantanal wetlands and is home to numerous endemic species [5]. The Pantanal is one of the world’s largest freshwater ecosystems, recognized by UNESCO and the Ramsar Convention.  The area is also of great cultural, economic and social importance to the Chiquitano indigenous people.

In June 2003 the Coordinating Entity for the Ethnic Peoples of Santa Cruz,  an NGO formed by representatives of the communities in the Bosque Chiquitano, filed a complaint with the World Bank’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman arguing that the mine violates the rights of over 7000 indigenous people [6]. In particular:

  • -“During the implementation and development phases of the Don Mario mining project, consideration [would not have been] given to the great ecological value and the sensitive nature of the ecosystems described above.”
  • -“Indigenous organizations and populations living in the area affected by the project [would not have been consulted] and provided with information in a timely and adequate manner, there [would not have been] any Indigenous People’s Development Plans (IPDPs), and no compensation measures for the profound social and environmental impact of the project, despite the objections in the social and environmental spheres that have been raised by the government authorities and indigenous communities and organizations

Among other shortcomings, the ombudsman found that indigenous people were not adequately consulted by the project proponents. The project has however moved forward.

Timeline of Key Events