Bolivia’s government announced on May 30 that it will consult indigenous communities before a mine that could become the country’s largest can move forward.
The announcement from Mining Minister Mario Virreira came after the third day of a march by indigenous community members from the department of Potosi, where Canadian mining company South American Silver is planning the Mallku Khota project, to the capital La Paz, 300 kilometers (190 miles) away, protesting against the mine.
“There will be a consultation before Mallku Khota is exploited,” Virreira said in a press conference. “We want to affirm this in a firm and resounding manner to make sure the population isn’t misled.”
Virreira said the protesters were mainly wildcat miners, who opposed to the large mine moving into the area where they had been extracting gold illegally.
“The only objective of the march is to maintain privileges … for the illegal exploitation of gold,” he said. He said the local population wants the Canadian mine.
Edwin Rojas, an activist and participant in the demonstration, said the demonstrators are trying to protect key lagoons that could be damaged in the extraction of silver.
Meanwhile, Vice President Alvaro García said the government was not ruling out a nationalization of the mine.