Bolivia’s government deployed 1,600 soldiers and police on Friday in an effort to avert more violent clashes between rival workers at a tin and zinc mine owned by commodities giant Glencore.
At least 18 people were hurt in hours of fighting overnight between rival groups of workers at the Colquiri mine, about 200km south of the de facto administrative capital, La Paz.
“About 1,000 police officers will go to Colquiri and the army will move about 600 soldiers to ensure calm,” Bolivian Minister of the Presidency Carlos Romero said.
The mine has been at a standstill for the past two weeks since members of independent mining cooperatives seeking new areas to work seized control.
Local media said clashes erupted when employees of Glencore’s Sinchi Wayra unit and local residents tried to take back control.
The situation was calm late on Friday.
A similar battle for control of the state-owned Huanuni tin mine six years ago ended in clashes that killed 17 people and leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales will want to avoid bloodshed at Colquiri.
Morales’ government has been trying to broker a deal in the latest dispute, but negotiations have failed so far.
“This isn’t going to be resolved by way of saying ‘no’ to one side and favoring the other,” Romero said, denying reports that one person was killed during the unrest.
Sinchi Wayra’s miners are calling for state mining company Comibol to “nationalize” the mine, which is owned by Comibol and operated by Sinchi Wayra under license, or to restore state control of day-to-day operations.
Members of the cooperatives, however, want to maintain the current arrangement and get access to new areas of the mining site.
Colquiri, which is one of three mines operated by Glencore’s Sinchi Wayra subsidiary in Bolivia, produced 2,000 tonnes of tin concentrate last year, according to Comibol data.