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  • Population, mn: 10.7
  • GDP, US$bn: 33.8
  • GDP per capita, US$: 3,106.1
  • Inflation, CPI ave: 3.6
  • Budget Balance, % of GDP: -6.6
  • FX, LCY/US$: 6.9
  • Mining GVA, US$bn: 3.0
Regulatory Risk Rating
Score: 45
Substantial Risk
The legislation is new, yet reflective of a cycle of increased nationalism and control over natural resources; the miner is laid bear before the entire Legislative Assembly if it wishes to pursue a mine with all of the political implications that such a process entails. An informed investor would never permit its custodian of funds to pursue a fresh opportunity or geological theory in this country, but would perhaps (in the right circumstances) merely leverage political influence - if any - to gain an interest in an existing asset, provided the value of any asset was adequate to compensate for the majority interest that the state now requires. Similar to Zimbabwe and South Africa in terms of "implied attitude" as objectively measured by the written word.

Corruption Potential Index

Score: 45
Moderate Corruption Potential

Corruption Risk Index

Score: 48
Moderate Corruption Risk

Regulatory Risk Rating

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Mining Overview Commentary plus sign



Bolivia, officially known as the Plurinational State of Bolivia, is located in the western-central region of South America. The country has a population of approximately 10 million and is the sixth largest country by area in Latin America It is landlocked and bordered by Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay and Argentina to the south, Chile to the southwest, and Peru to the west. . Bolivia is divided into nine administrative departments: Beni, Chuquisaca, Cochabamba, La Paz, Oruro, Pando, Potosí, Santa Cruz and Tarija. Under the administrative decentralization law of 1995, Bolivia’s nine departments received greater autonomy. Bolivian mineral resources are predominantly located in the western part of the country (Oruro and Potosi) where it produces silver, zinc, tin (wolfram), lead and gold. Although lithium has not yet been exploited, Bolivia has the largest lithium deposit in the world.

Since 2006, Bolivia has been served by President Juan Evo Morales Ayma, who indicated his desire to nationalize the mining industry shortly after coming to office. In February 2007, the Government nationalized a tin smelter owned by Glencore and then its Colquiri (tin and zinc) mine in 2012. In the same year (2012), the Bolivian Government nationalised South American Silver’s Malku Khota (silver, indium and gallium) project. These actions contributed to Bolivia having the dubious ranking of “bottom 10” in the Fraser Institute’s Policy Perception Index 2012/2013 Annual Survey of Mining Companies; more recently in the 2015 survey, it was ranked by the Institute as 94th out of 109 countries.


The Bolivian Constitution was passed in 2009 and required that all the mining concessions be adapted to the new constitutional regime, through their conversion to “mining contracts”, within a year. Bolivia finally passed a new Mining and Metallurgy Law (Mining Law), compliant with the Constitution, in 2014. The Mining Law was designed to strengthen the State’s control over its mineral resources. Whilst many provisions reflect modern mining concepts, such as the recognition that all minerals belong to the State (Art. 2) and the principle of first-come / first serve (Art. 13), there are other provisions that merit notice, including:

  • Article 20:    mineral rights confer no rights to land (no real property interest) (see also Art. 93); and


  • Article 98:    mining rights may not be pledged as security for purposes of financing.


In addition, whilst an exploration and prospecting licence gives a pre-emptive or preferential right to secure a mining contract over the exploration area (Arts. 155 and 156), it is unclear if complications on the exercise of such preferential right will arise in practice. The Mining Law is administered by a body called the Administrative Jurisdictional Mining Authority (AJAM), which is a legal body under the authority of the Ministry of Mining and Metallurgy. La Corporación Minera de Bolivia (COMIBOL) is also recognised in the new law as having authority to administer those areas under its control, which includes areas held by a variety of subsidiaries, areas specifically set aside for state exploration, and areas in respect of lithium and potassium, which are deemed strategic minerals (Art. 61).


Areas open for mineral rights are those that are not the subject of pre-existing mineral (exploration or mining) rights and areas that have not been reserved to the State (free mining area). An applicant must request a free mining area certificate over the area where exploration activities are going to be performed from the Mining Cadastre Authority. This certificate must be presented with the licence application. The mineral rights that are recognised under the Mining Law include:

  • Air(borne Survey) Prospecting Licence: This licence is issued by AJAM and has a duration of up to 6 months; the licence grants priority for an exploration and prospecting licence.


  • Exploration and Prospecting Licence: This licence is issued by AJAM and has a duration of up to 5 years, renewable for another 3 years. The licence gives a preferential right to secure an administrative mining contract. The titleholder must provide a semi-annual report on the activities performed. Failure to file two reports in sequence or the suspension of operations for more than 1 year gives rise to a right to terminate the licence (Art. 163).


  • Mining Contract: An administrative mining contract gives the holder the right to engage in mining activities and has a duration of up to 30 years. It may be extended for another 30 years (Art. 142). The mining operator must commence mining activities within 1 year from the grant of the contract, and may not abandon or suspend the activities longer than six months (Art 144).


A licence pertaining to the beneficiation of ores and mineral products is also necessary, where applicable, and ore and concentrates are required to be marketed firstly to any State smelter or refinery, secondly, to any smelter or refinery within Bolivia and, thirdly, after the ore or concentrates have been preferentially offered to such entities, offered internationally (Art 173).


Holders of mining rights are entitled to seek surface rights in the area specified in the contract, as well as rights of egress through neighbouring properties. Where an agreement with surface rights owners is not possible, the mining rights holder may apply for an order of access and a determination of compensation (Art. 108). Furthermore, rights to water may be obtained with the prior authorization of the competent Water Authority (Art .111). The environmental impact assessment process is governed by the Environment Law (Law Nº 1333) and the Environmental Regulation of Mining Activities. In order to engage in mining activities, one will require an environment licence. For a new mine, the licence will require a study (EIA) examining the impact on local flora and fauna, social impacts and an assessment of any historic contamination and other environmental liabilities.


 See Bolivia - Environmental Overview Commentary.

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Bolivia is located in the central zone of South America, extending from the Central Andes, through part of the Gran Chaco, as far as the Amazon. Bolivia has one of the greatest bio-diverse regions in the world and is a member of the "Like-Minded Mega-diverse Countries" group, set up in 2002 by various countries hoping to promote the preservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. Its territory comprises four types of biomes, 32 ecological regions and 199 ecosystems. Bolivia has more than 2,900 animal species, including 398 mammals, over 1,400 birds, 204 amphibians, 277 reptiles and 635 fish. In addition, there are more than 3,000 types of butterflies.

Deforestation in upper river basins has caused environmental problems, including soil erosion and declining water quality. Over the past few decades, use of chemical fertilizers and over exploitation of renewable resources has all but destroyed the sustainability of agricultural lands in the Cochabamba region, by creating a growing negative deficit of net nutrients taken from the soil. Other concerns facing Bolivia include loss of biodiversity and industrial pollution of water supplies used for drinking and irrigation.


The Constitution of 2008 indicates that: “people have the right to a healthy environment, protected and balanced” (Art. 33). In 2010, Bolivia passed a “Law of the Rights of Mother Earth” (Law No. 071), which was considered to be the first instance of environmental law granting a certain legal persona to the natural system itself, which may then permit citizens to sue individuals and groups on behalf of "Mother Earth" in response to infringements on her integrity.

Other important legislation and regulations include the Environmental Law (Law No. 1333/1992), the Regulation on Environment Control and Prevention (RECP), and the Environmental Regulation of Mining Activities (Supreme Decree 2478) (herein ERMA). According to Article 3 of the ERMA, the Regional Government has the responsibility for controlling and monitoring the environmental impact of mining activities within its territorial jurisdiction.


According to Article 25 of the Environmental Law, all projects must be classified in order to identify whether or not they require a general environmental impact assessment (EIA) (Categories 1 and 2), a conceptual review (Category 3) or none of the foregoing (Category 4). A proposed modern mine will require an EIA. If an EIA is required, the proponent will be required to produce a base line study and engage in a process of public participation (Art. 23 of the RECP). The project may only proceed to development once a Declaratoria de Impacto Ambiental (DIA) has been issued (Art. 51 of the RECP). The DIA constitutes the environmental licence for the relevant project (Art. 81 of the RECP; see also Art. 121 of the ERMA) and is valid for the duration of the project. The EIA may require revision where the operator plans to increase its capacity by 33% or more, has suspended operations for an extended period of time, and in certain other circumstances (Art. 11 of the ERMA).

Exploration activities also require an environmental licence called a Certificate of Dispensation (Category 3 or 4). Low impact activities, such as mapping or geological, geochemical and aerial surveying require a Category 4 Certificate of Dispensation, which is valid once filed and receipted (Art. 115 of the ERMA). Higher impact exploration activities, such as geophysical exploration (e.g., soil sampling), drilling, trenches and pits, require a Certificate of Dispensation Category 3.. An applicant for a Category 3 Certificate of Dispensation must complete an EMAP form (“exploration activities form for recognition, development, preparation, mining, and mineral concentration, with no significant environmental impact”) and, once filed, the licence will generally be granted within 15 days. 

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