Bolivian mining minister fired amid conflict

La Paz, Apr 8 (EFE).- Deadly clashes last week after the new Mining Law was passed led to the dismissal Tuesday of Bolivia's minister of mines.

Early Tuesday morning President Evo Morales designated Cesar Navarro to replace Mario Virreira.

Besides two fatalities, a hundred miners and police were injured in last week's confrontations, when thousands of co-op miners blocked highways in five regions of the country in protest against last-minute changes to the Mining Law.

The government said Monday that 42 illegal contracts between co-op miners and multinational firms had been discovered.

Consequently, Morales said Tuesday that one of the first jobs of the new minister will be to take an audit of those contracts.

The co-op miners suspended their demonstrations late last week in hopes of meeting with Morales, who announced he would receive them this Thursday.

The latest amendments to the Mining Law bar co-op miners from signing partnership contracts with private companies, whether domestic or foreign.

Lawmakers feared the companies would take advantage of the preferential tax conditions granted to co-ops and would appropriate the mineral deposits.

The Senate is holding off consideration of the Mining Law pending further talks with Fencomin, the group representing mining co-ops.