Bolivia will treat 4.5 million tons of toxic mining waste, accumulated over several decades in the southwestern part of the country, at a Chinese concentration plant in the Andean region of Potosi, authorities said Saturday.
The toxic waste, accumulated from mining activities around the Potosi town of Cantumarca, will be treated at the concentration plant inaugurated Oct. 7 by the Chinese company Jun Gie in the Agua Dulce district, the state-owned Bolivian Mining Corporation, or Comibol, said in a communique.
“With this move, we are responding to settlers of Cantumarca who demand that the waste be taken to another region to avoid further environmental contamination,” the president of Comibol, Marcelino Quispe, said.
The state mining authority has established a plan for moving the mining waste, and in the first stage will transport 45,000 tons of it to the Jun Gie plant.
Besides the toxic waste at San Miguel, Cantumarca is at the same time afflicted by the Laguna Pampa I and II waste reservoirs, also identified as centers of pollution.
According to Comibol, the biggest problem in the area is at San Miguel, where waste has been accumulating for decades, “causing the contamination” that sparked indignant protests by locals demanding that the hazard be cleaned out of their area.
The 4.5 million tons of concentrated waste in San Miguel contains sulfurous minerals as well as oxidized deposits containing various amounts of quartz, pyrite, chalcopyrite, copper, arsenic and other minerals that generate acidic waters, the Bolivian mining authority said.