Bolivia, like other countries in the region, has known an upsurge in gold mining in the last 15 years. The struggle for access to promising mining sites has intensified. In many cases, rumors about successful miners trigger new migration flows. The enormous increase of people involved in mining brings challenges for existing infrastructure and transport facilities. Also miners amongst themselves fight over access to working places.
Sometimes, indigenous communities became part of the struggle for access to mining sites, located on their territories. The relationships between indigenous peoples and miners are quite diverse: sometimes good, sometimes hostile. Some inland communities dislike the presence of the balsas, although most people appreciate the employment, the money, and the other local (economic and other) dynamics that come with it .
Conflicts occur between those miners who are still ‘informal’ and receive pressure from the cooperatives. Once formalized, the balsa owners have to comply with the rules set by ADEMAF and EBO, concerning environmental protection, safety measures and commercialization procedures. Mostly they want to comply, to be able to ‘work without worries’. But if there are other miners who are still dodging the law, for example in relation to the tight control on fuel sales, this creates tensions.