Bolivia in talks to end protests hitting key mines

LA PAZ, Aug 14 (BestGrowthStock) – The Bolivian government began
talks early on Saturday seeking to end protests that have hurt
output at two of the world’s top silver mines.

The government and the demonstrators, who want an increase
in public spending in the mineral-rich Potosi region, both said
they were hopeful an agreement could be reached.

The more than two weeks of protests have hurt the mining
industry in Bolivia, a major global producer of zinc, silver,
tin and lead.

The start of formal negotiations comes after preliminary
discussions stalled on Friday. The government has withdrawn
earlier demands for demonstrators to lift the protest before
sitting down for talks. Protest leaders also dropped demands to
meet with President Evo Morales.

“The government wants an agreement as soon as possible to
put an end to the protest,” Presidency Minister Oscar Coca
said.

He said the government was willing to negotiate protesters’
demands, which include the building of a cement plant and a new
airport.

Protest leader Celestino Condori said talks were “a sign of
goodwill.”

U.S.-based Coeur D’Alene’s (CDE.N: ) San Bartolome mine, the
world’s largest pure silver mine, has been shut down for two
weeks after workers joined the protests.

Japan-based Sumitomo’s (8053.T: ) silver-zinc-lead San
Cristobal mine was forced to stop processing ore after some
demonstrators threatened to cut the power supply to the
operation.

The combined output of the two mines accounts for about 83
percent of the nearly 1.1 million kilograms of fine silver
Bolivia produced in 2009, according to mining ministry data.

Government officials have said the protests could have cost
the poor country tens of millions of dollars so far.
(Reporting by Carlos Quiroga; Writing by Alonso Soto; Editing
by Eric Beech)

Bolivia in talks to end protests hitting key mines