BIF News Briefing, December 2012 to January 2013 Bolivia Information Forum

Karachipampa smelting plant opened after 28 years lying dormant After 28 years of inactivity, the Karachipampa smelting plant, located just outside the city of Potosí has been opened by Comibol, the Bolivian state mining enterprise. The furnaces were ignited at an opening ceremony during which President Evo Morales urged the local authorities to support the project, as the re-activation of the plant has been a central demand of the Civic Committee of Potosí (COMCIPO) for several years (see BIF Bulletin No. 16).

Karachipampa was constructed during the 1980s, but despite nearly US$200 million being invested by the government of the time, the plant never became operational. In 2005 a joint-venture contract was signed between Comibol and the Canadian mining firm Atlas Precious Metals (APM) to develop Karachipampa, but this was terminated in 2010 after the government accused APM of failing to demonstrate its commitment to the project.

The plant will have a processing capacity of up 51,000 tonnes of concentrate, and will smelt lead, zinc, silver and gold, amongst other minerals. It currently has around 250 workers, a figure expected to rise to 400 once the plant is fully operational. According to Mario Virreira, minister for mining, Karachipampa will bring in around US$50 million per year once it reaches its production capacity. The government hopes that the re-opened plant will be central to the development of the Potosí region.