Natural resources, energy and environment
Bolivia has large assets on natural gas, oil
and minerals. Silver and tin have historically been
central to the economy, but nowadays natural gas is the
most important raw material.
Oil reserves are also relatively large, but oil
exports are significantly smaller than natural gas
exports. The gas accounts for one third of exports,
while the minerals together account for half.
Major exports by Bolivia with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.
Large gas deposits have been made since 1996 and gas
exports have risen sharply since 1999, when a new
pipeline to Brazil was commissioned.
Bolivia has long been importing fuel products, paying
market prices and subsequently subsidizing the goods on
the domestic market at a cost to the state of over a
billion US dollars a year. Former President Evo
Morales's failed attempt to abolish subsidies in 2010
triggered a popular revolt (see Modern History). The
subsidies are now gradually reduced.
The gas industry has contributed to a large part of
the foreign investment in Bolivia, but the political
turmoil in the first decade of the 21st century (see
Modern history) reduced the willingness to invest. A new
law that was passed in 2005 meant increased taxes and
fees for the foreign companies, which announced that
they would freeze their investments.
Abbreviationfinder: A popular acronym site in the world covering abbreviation for each country. For example, BO stands for Bolivia. Visit itypeusa for more information about Bolivia.
When President Morales took office in 2006, the gas
industry was nationalized, which was taken over by the
state company YPFB (Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales
Bolivianos). Nationalization took place by allowing the
military to take control of the oil and gas fields.
Morales ordered Brazilian energy giant Petrobras and
other foreign companies to channel future sales through
YPFB. The companies were given 180 days to renegotiate
their contracts or leave the country. At the same time,
the government promised that production and exports
would continue. Several large international oil and gas
companies agreed to enter into new agreements.
Morales had taken the opportunity to nationalize the
energy sector as gas and oil prices rose in the market.
He wanted to secure good income for the Treasury in
order to realize the social initiatives he promised,
including reducing poverty (see Social conditions).
Bolivia has large assets of a variety of metals. The
most important today are zinc, silver and lead. Tin and
gold are also broken. Mining has been important since
silver was discovered in Potosí in the 16th century (see
Older history). During the 1900s, Bolivia was a major
tin exporter, but production ceased almost entirely in
1985 because of the price of tin on the world market.
The Comibol Mining Company (Corporación Minera de
Bolivia), which had been formed during the
nationalization of mines after the 1952 revolution, was
effectively closed down. The decline in tin mining was
partly offset by increased extraction of gold, silver
During the first year of the 21st century, the mining
industry experienced a renaissance due to the sharp rise
in prices. Silver and tin are now important export goods
again. Most of the mining is done under private
management, by both large companies and individual
workers in cooperatives. During Morale's reign, Comibol
also gained new life. Mining is often carried out using
primitive methods and in miserable working conditions.
Bolivia also has large assets of tungsten, antimony,
lead, bismuth and iron ore. In the salt fields on the
high plateau there are large reserves of lithium. This
could mean that Bolivia is sitting on a potential new
"gold mine" - lithium batteries for climate-smart
electric cars are expected to become a bestseller
The supply of oil and natural gas makes Bolivia
self-sufficient in the energy field, with the exception
of diesel imports. More than half of the electricity
used in the country is extracted from natural gas, the
rest is mainly produced from hydropower.
FACTS - ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Energy use per person
789 kilos of oil equivalent (2014)
Electricity consumption per person
753 kWh, kWh (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions in total
20 411 thousand tonnes (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant
1.9 tons (2014)
The share of energy from renewable sources
17.5 percent (2015)
Relations with the United States are restored
Diplomatic relations with the US are resumed after
being interrupted since 2008 (see Foreign Policy and
Morales backs on road construction in the Amazon
President Morales decides not to implement the
controversial road construction previously laid on ice
(see August 2011 and September
Judging entries are added in general elections
For the first time, members of four of the country's
highest courts, including the highest court and the
Constitutional Court, are elected by the people in
general elections. This is done in accordance with the
Constitution of 2009 (see Political system). Half of the
candidates are women and many belong to the indigenous
population. The opposition calls for an election boycott
because it believes that the elections to the courts
lead to the judicial system being politicized. About 60
percent of voters vote blankly or not at all.
Political crisis around contentious road
The road construction in Tipnis (see August
2011) is developing into an acute political
crisis. The protest march is stopped and the protesters
are dispersed under tumultuous forms by around 500
police officers equipped with tear gas and batons. An
infant dies of tear gas. Morales promises a referendum
on the road construction but soon announces that the
project is on ice. The Minister of Defense, the Minister
of the Interior and others resign in protest or after
being appointed to order the police operation. In La
Paz, tens of thousands are protesting against the road
construction and the hard-handed police operation.
Seven convicted for "October Massacre" 2003
The Supreme Court sentenced five high-ranking
soldiers to between 10 and 15 years in prison for
genocide in connection with the so-called October
massacre in 2003 (see Modern History). Two former
ministers are sentenced at the same time to three years
in prison for their roles in the strike that cost more
than 60 people their lives.
Protest against road construction in the Amazon
Hundreds of indigenous people in the Amazon begin a
50-mile protest march against a road construction
through the rainforest in the Isiboro-Sécure Indian and
Nature Reserve (called Tipnis). The protesters believe
that the road threatens their ancient land areas, and
other critics say the construction leads to illegal
settlements and logging. The protest is a political
problem for President Morales, who claims to protect the
rights and protection of indigenous peoples. The new
route, which has already begun, will go from the Amazon
in Brazil through Bolivia to ports on the Pacific coast
of Peru and Chile.
New law increases state control
A new law for telecommunications strengthens the
state's control over the etheric media and is met by
harsh criticism from the private media companies, which
are largely opposed to President Morale's policy.
Iran's defense minister expelled
Iran's defense minister is invited to Bolivia but
turns out to be wanted in Argentina - and by Interpol -
suspected of the attack on a Jewish center in Buenos
Aires in 1994, when 85 people were killed. The Bolivia
government apologizes and expels the minister from the
Governor is sentenced to house arrest
Governor Ernesto Suárez in the opposition-controlled
Department of Beni is placed under house arrest, charged
with embezzlement, abuse of power and financial crimes
against the state. However, he will not be suspended
from his post, as the colleague in Tarija became (see
December 2010). Harsh criticism, even
from an international perspective, has been directed at
the deposition of the governor of Tarija.
Trade union protests result in wage increases
After protests and strikes, the national organization
COB and the government agree on wage increases for
health care workers, teachers, military and police. The
protests have been the most extensive since Morales took
office in 2006.
Dispute with Chile to international court
President Evo Morales announces that the government
intends to refer the dispute with Chile to international
courts to assert Bolivia's right to free access to the
sea (see Foreign Policy and Defense).
Chile's Foreign Minister on a visit
Chile's foreign minister visits Bolivia, the first
visit of its kind in over half a century. During the
visit, talks about Bolivia's demands for a land corridor
to the Pacific are held.
People in protest after price increases
Food shortages and sharp price increases for basic
foods cause violent demonstrations.
Ex-police chief arrested with cocaine
A former head of the Ministry of the Interior's drug
fight, René Sanabria, is arrested in Panama with 60
kilos of cocaine. He is later deported to the United
States where he is eventually sentenced to 14 years in
prison for cocaine smuggling.
Record low support for Morales
President Evo Morale's popularity figures reach a
record low level after the attempt to scrap fuel
subsidies (see December 2010). Only 30
percent of those polled say they support the president.
Morales rejects demands from the national organization
COB, among other things that certain ministers should
resign and on a higher increase in the minimum wage than
the government has proposed. COB has traditionally been
Morale's ally but led the protests against the fuel
price hikes in December 2010.