Mallku Khota, Bolivia
Synopsis (June 2012):
A series of confrontations between local villagers and company representatives that began in early 2011 have escalated with the intervention of the Bolivian police and the arrest of community leader, Cancio Rojas. The main issues of contention are the potential impacts to four highland lakes that assure the water supply for this arid highland region, possible dislocation of local communities now encompassed within the concession, and the alleged non-respect of consultation rights.
The company for its part claims that a majority of locals support the mine and that opposition is mainly driven by outside organizations. A report by CEDIB – Bolivia indicates that 19 ayllus or communities met in early May to organize their opposition to the mine. In late May inhabitants from the region began an important multi-day march towards the capital of La Paz to make their case. An estimated 8000 marchers arrived in the capital where confrontations with police and authorities began. In early June of 2012 Bolivian President Evo Morales declared that the government would consult with locals before authorizing the continuation of the project. On the 29th of June and the 3rd of July, company engineers were taken hostage at the mine, a number later escaped and the remainder were freed as part of the negotiations with the Bolivian government. Contingents of the Bolivian police were sent to the project site where violent confrontations led to the death of one community member. Following reports that the Bolivian government was contemplating the nationalization of the mine, Canadian minister of Trade, Ed Fast, directed his consular staff in Bolivia to “intensify their engagement with the Bolivian government to order to protect and defend Canadian interests”.