Guanay, on the Mapiri River at the mouth of the Tipuani, is the center of agold rush. More than 200 cooperative mines, plus scores of private companies and hundreds of one-miner operations, have sprung up along the Tipuani and neighboring rivers.
Vast deposits of gold hard rock and placer deposits are rich within the rivers and streams in Bolivia. These rocks and deposits are a direct result of thousands of years of ongoing volcano activity, which have created the ideal conditions for gold to form. Hydrothermal waters from extinct volcanos along with other environmental factors create the perfect conditions whereby gold deposits precipitate and dissolve gold from solution.
During the 1952 revolution, Bolivia nationalized three mining companies. These companies received public funds creating steady increase in production, independent of market conditions. However in the long run, this strategy may have slowed down mining technical innovation due to lack of financial support. As such, technical conditions for gold mining in Bolivia have evolved slowly.
During that time, gold was mined almost exclusively by over 300 cooperatives throughout the country, along with about 10,000 prospectors.
A large percentage of the cooperatives worked in Tipuani, Guanay, Mapiri, Huayti, and Teoponte in a 21,000-hectare region set aside for gold mining and located 120 kilometers north of La Paz. Mining cooperatives in the late 1980s had requested an additional 53,000 hectares from the government for gold prospecting. A few medium-sized mining operations, as well as the Armed Forces National Development Corporation became involved in the gold rush in the 1980s.
Others panned for their fortunes in remote villages like Araras along the Brazilian border in Beni. Many artisanal miners and local villagers in Bolivia make a living from the placer deposits in the country.
Analysts predicted that more commercial production, such as the dredging of alluvial deposits, would maximize gold output. Government policy favored augmenting gold reserves as a means of leveraging more external finance for development projects.
In the last ten years, Bolivian mining is expected to have best market performance of all metals. Experts agree that gold has the biggest potential for growth in the coming years, as companies continue to invest in exploration.
Conventional wisdom dictates that Bolivia’s international private sector mining will continue, and many more gold discoveries are likely to be made in the coming decades.