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Strike at Huanuni tin Mine Costs Bolivia $1.5 mln

By Eduardo Garcia, Reuters

August 4, 2008

Bolivia

Bolivia has lost over $1.5 million due to a strike at the country's largest tin mine, Huanuni, where workers are demanding a deeper pension reform, the mine's general manager said on Monday.


Roberto Montano told Reuters the state-owned mine has been losing about $500,000 a day since workers went on strike, halting production, on Thursday afternoon. The official said the mine always closed on Sundays.


"They (the workers) are staging an indefinite general strike ... they're waiting for negotiations between the Bolivian Workers Central and the government," Montano said.


Workers at Huanuni are backing Bolivia's largest labor federation, the Bolivian Workers Central or COB, in its campaign for bigger pensions and a lowering of the retirement age to 55.


The leftist government of President Evo Morales has presented a pension reform proposal to Congress, but the COB says the bill is not generous enough and has called it "pro-business."


The COB has staged several protests, blocking roads and storming government buildings in recent days to demand a more far-reaching measure.
The mine in the Oruro region, some 160 miles (260 km) south of the country's administrative capital La Paz, produced 821 tonnes of tin in June.


Huanuni employs some 4,700 workers and has been a flashpoint for labor strife.


Workers there went on a 12-day pay strike in April, and production came to a halt for several weeks in late 2006 after violent clashes between rival groups of miners killed 18 people and injured dozens.


After the conflict, the government banned independent miners from working at Huanuni and granted state-run mining company Comibol total control over the mine.


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