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Nationalisation sparks dynamite protest

Sep 19 2012 09:35 AFP

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La Paz - Bolivian miners irate over being shut out of a lucrative state-owned pit set off dynamite in a melee that left one person dead and nine injured, triggering panic in the Bolivian capital.

Organisers of a protest march on Tuesday that preceded the fight said 30 000 miners took part. The dynamite blasts sent people scurrying for safety and prompted shop owners and banks to shut down.

A stick of dynamite exploded on the roof of a miners union office, causing the roof to cave in. One man had his hand blown off, and another of the injured was a passer-by, said Deputy Interior Minister Jorge Perez.

He later announced that a "fellow miner" had been killed, as he denounced the "clashes and intransigence" of the demonstrators and called on both sides to meet with officials on Wednesday for reconciliation talks.

The dispute pits independent miners against those who work for a state-owned company at a zinc and tin mine called Colquiri, which was nationalised by populist president Evo Morales's government in June.

Independent miners grouped into cooperatives used to be able to work it, but have been denied access since the nationalisation and have repeatedly clashed with employees of the state-owned firm Comibol, which is working the mine.

Last week the independent miners blocked roads in a series of protests in La Paz. Violence has also erupted at the mine itself, where the government has deployed police and troops to maintain order.

The mine was previously operated by a subsidiary of Swiss-based commodities giant Glencore, which opposed the government's takeover.

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bolivia  |  mining unrest
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