This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 7/12/2019

Overview

Mining remains one of Bolivia’s most important economic activities.  Despite more than 500 years of continuous mining in Bolivia, estimates suggest that only 10 percent of Bolivia’s mineral resources have been extracted.  Principal metals and industrial minerals include zinc, lead, tin, gold, silver, copper, tungsten, sulfur, potassium, borax, and semi-precious stones.  Mining accounted for approximately 28 percent of Bolivia’s exports or $2.2 billion in 2017. 

Bolivia began opening the mining industry to private investment in the 1980s.  Lands previously held by the state-owned Bolivian Mining Corporation (Corporación Minera de Bolivia, COMIBOL) are open to joint venture or leasing contracts.  The constitution states that all mines should operate as joint ventures with COMIBOL, but legislation has not yet been approved to make this effective.  COMIBOL could form joint ventures, 55-45 percent sharing, with the state owning the majority share.

During the Morales administration, there have been a number of nationalizations of mines and smelter plants.  The government is currently running four mines and two smelter plants.

After three years of negotiation between the government and mining companies punctuated by several weeks of violent confrontations in April 2014, President Morales signed the new Mining Law on May 28, 2014.  The conflicts over the law started because the final draft of the law prohibited contracts between cooperatives and private companies (either Bolivian or international).  According to the miners, this would have been problematic since cooperative miners do not have capital, technology, or access to the export market.  After a month of negotiations with the government, the miners finally accepted this prohibition.  The law establishes that there will be no more mining concessions, only contracts which will be signed between private companies and COMIBOL (the government mining company).  It appears that current companies will need to migrate to this new type of contract although the process for migration has not been clarified.  The law does not discuss important issues such as taxes, water use, or consultation with indigenous communities.  These themes should be dealt with in separate additional laws, though little progress has been made in the intervening years.

 

 201720182019 estimated*
Total Local Production4,571,2224,708,116NA
Total Exports2,375,9002,389,100NA
Total Imports899,8651,293,489NA
Imports from the US4.1005.055NA
Total Market Size3,095,1873,612,505NA
Exchange Rates6.866.86NA

*The Bolivian government does not provide estimates.
(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports)
Units: $ millions
Source: National Statistics Bureau (INE)

 

Leading Sub-Sectors

The best sales prospects in the mining sector are machinery and equipment and other technologies for medium-sized open pit mines and small- and medium-sized alluvial gold mining operations.

For medium-sized open pit operations, the best prospects are drills, crushers, pulverizing machines, conveyors, compressors, front-loaders, bulldozers, 15- to 30-ton heavy-duty trucks, gravimetric or flotation concentrators, and pumps.

In the small-scale mining sector, the best prospects are small jack-leg drills, front-loaders, crushers, concentration tables, flotation concentrators, hand tools, and explosives.

 

Opportunities

Bolivia is looking to capitalize on its large in-ground lithium supply, and the government has chosen Chinese and Germany companies to partner on the government’s projects.  Bolivia has the largest lithium deposits of any country and its deposits are estimated to be about half of the world's supply.  However, the deposits are located in the Uyuni salt flats, one of Bolivia’s great natural treasures.  The projects will require machinery and capital goods, which U.S. companies could provide. 
 

Web Resources

State-Owned Enterprise
Ministry of Mining

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



Bolivia Energy Machinery and Tools Trade Development and Promotion