In 2014, the Bolivian Plurinational Legislative Assembly approved Law No 535 to provide a framework regulation for mining activities by setting rules for the granting of mining rights and the development of mining activities in a responsible, planned and sustainable manner. This law also regulates a new institutional and administrative structure for state mining activities.
This law was inspired by the following principles:
- Socioeconomic functions and interests.
- Non-transferability of mining areas.
- Legal certainty for mining actors. The State grants, recognises, respects, and guarantees mining rights and protects investment.
- Social responsibility in the use of mining resources within the framework of sustainable development, aimed to improve the Bolivians' quality of life.
- Sustainability of the mining sector and promotion of investments.
- Reciprocity with 'Mother Earth'. The development of mining activities must be governed within the framework of the provisions of the Political Constitution of the State, Law No. 300, Law of Mother Earth and Integral Development for Living Well, and other applicable legal regulations.
- Protection of Original Indigenous Nations and Peoples in a situation of High Vulnerability. The Development of mining activities must consider the protection and care of native indigenous nations and peoples in situations of high vulnerability.
In particular, article 8 establishes that mineral resources and mining activities are strategic for the country and a public utility for the development of the country and the Bolivian people. Moreover, the State may reserve strategic minerals for exclusive exploitation by state-owned companies. Indeed, article 26, paragraph IV, declared lithium and potassium as strategic elements and declared that their development may be carried out by state-owned companies - i.e. the Bolivian Lithium Deposits (YLB) company established under Law 928.
Law No 535 also regulates the Bolivian Mining Corporation - COMIBOL, as a strategic public company, its assets, and technical, administrative, legal, and economic autonomy. This company is responsible for directing and managing the State mining industry except for state-owned companies that are not under its dependency.
Finally, Law No 535 sets relevant rules regarding the rights of indigenous communities. Article 297 guarantees the collective and fundamental right of the indigenous nations and peoples, intercultural communities, and the Afro-Bolivian people to be involved in a prior, free, and informed consultation process carried out by the State. This consultation process must be carried out for any request to sign a mining administrative contract that is likely to directly affect indigenous community collective rights.