WB Mission Investigates Environmental Misconduct in Bolivia

A representative from the World Bank's office of the compliance advisor (OCA) is in southeastern Bolivia investigating allegations of environmental mismanagement at the Don Mario mine and Cuiaba natural gas pipeline, according to local environmental group CEADES.

OCA principal specialist Rachel Kyte is reported to be investigating whether Bolivian mining company Comsur, which owns Don Mario, failed to abide by environmental commitments set down in a US$10mn loan contract with the WB's International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Bolivia's Santa Cruz department ethnic peoples' group, CPESC, registered the complaint with OCA, saying Don Mario had failed to meet environmental conditions. "We want these gentlemen to see the reality of our people," lower house representative and indigenous leader Isaac Avalos told BNamericas. "[Foreign companies] exploit, they explore, they contaminate, but they never follow international laws." Don Mario is also accused of building an illegal branch from the nearby GasOriente natural gas pipeline, owned by US power company Enron and Anglo-Dutch Shell, which is itself the subject of considerable criticism.

Avalos claimed GasOriente failed to reforest the Chiquitano dry forest after it built the pipeline or consult the local communities as it was supposed to. Furthermore, there has been no maintenance of the existing pipeline and right of way, said Avalos, who is a member of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) opposition party.

The environmental ministry's investigation came to no conclusions, nor has the government replied to his own investigation presented to the mines and hydrocarbons ministry, said Avalos. "This is a government of corruption not of regulation, nor does it want prosperity for our country, " he said, adding companies must be forced to meet their legal obligations, restore the right of way, resolve solid waste problems and face fines. Neither the WB's Rachel Kyte nor Enron executives were immediately available for comment when contacted by BNamericas. Bolivia's Comsur is financing the US$20mn underground gold mine in return for a majority stake in Toronto-based Orvana Minerals (TSX: ORV).

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