Bolivia government strikes gold tax deal with miners after protests
LA PAZ, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Bolivia's government struck a deal with gold mining cooperatives on Wednesday, agreeing to levy a 4.8% tax on the gross sale value of gold and easing pressure on leftist President Luis Arce amid protests around the country.
The deal followed a bout of intense negotiations that lasted more than 12 hours and came after days of protests by miners in the administrative capital La Paz. Thousands of Bolivian miners wearing hard hats and carrying flags and banners had marched in the highland city earlier this week. The mining cooperatives had been seeking a 4.5% tax, while the government pushed for 5%. "This tax will apply only to gold and not to other metals," Economy Minister Marcelo Montenegro said after the meeting.
Gold exports reached some $2.5 billion last year but resulted in the payment of just $7 million in royalties, or less than 1%, according to data from the country's mining ministry. Bolivia has seen gold production spike in the last five years, but officials and indigenous leaders are worried that the mining is impacting the local environment and waterways.
The country's Congress must approve the deal before it can be applied to the gold mining cooperatives, which employ thousands of people across the country.
President Luis Arce also faces separate protests in Santa Cruz, the country's biggest and richest department, where an indefinite strike against a postponed census has paralyzed the agricultural hub.
(Reporting by Daniel Ramos; Writing by Sarah Morland; Editing by David Holmes)