The Ausmelt furnace, under construction in Bolivia. (
The Ausmelt furnace, under construction in Bolivia. (

By Carlos A Quiroga

The small basic industry of Bolivia is about to take a historic leap in quality with the expansion of the metallurgical complex of Vinto, Oruro, which processes most of the tin ore produced in the country.

State-owned Vinto upgrades this week its operation, forty-five years after its inauguration, putting in service an Ausmelt furnace, the most modern of the continent according to local technicians, largely built in Bolivia with Australian design and patents.

The furnace of almost $ 40 million is under heating process since last Sunday and will be ready to melt tin from next weekend in the Andean complex.

Starting next year, Vinto will be able to at least double the 12,000 metric tons of fine (MTF) tin metal bullion which currently produces.

This good news means a great challenge for tin mining, whose production has fallen to 12,000-15,000 MTF/year in the last decade due to the depletion of traditional deposits and low international prices that discourage extractive industry.

This situation is exactly the opposite of 45 years ago, when the first tin smelter built by German firm Klockner, with annual capacity of 20,000 MTF, could process less than two thirds of national production. Bolivia was then the second tin producer in the world.