The Honduran Ministry of Energy, Natural Resources, Environment and Mines (MiAmbiente) made public yesterday the decision declaring «all Honduran territory free of open-pit mining». This practice is also responsible for serious social and political conflicts, the most notable being that of Guapinol, owned by the company Inversiones Pinares. In this conflict, in addition to people threatened and exiled, 8 activists have been imprisoned for more than 2 years. Despite the fact that the Honduran Supreme Court decided this past February 11 to dismiss their case, they were not released until February 24.
After the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras, privatization of its resources was imposed and those protesting against it were repressed. To this end, Employment and Economic Development Zones (ZEDE) and mining enclaves were implemented. Mining concessions were increased to foreign investors with enormous privileges: customs, tax and access to necessary natural resources such as water. In 2018, 35% of the territory was under concession, and rivers, forests and mountains became the property of businessmen close to the previous government. The government granted 59 mining concessions to private companies, without consulting the people. This concessionary policy has shown to generate no benefits to its population, making Honduras the second most impoverished country in all of Central America and the Caribbean, after Haiti.
It was a promise made by President Xiomara Castro, who during her inaugural speech promised: «No more permits for open mines or exploitation of our minerals, no more concessions in the exploitation of our rivers, watersheds, our national parks and cloud forests».
The brief document pointed out that the approval of permits for extractivist exploitation is cancelled, because they are harmful to the State of Honduras, they threaten natural resources, public health and limit access to water as a human right.
It was included that, due to the approval of the mining moratorium provision for metallic and non-metallic exploration and exploitation, environmental licenses, permits and concessions will be reviewed, suspended and cancelled.
While natural areas of high ecological value will be intervened immediately, ensuring their conservation and common benefits for the people. All this in line with the principles of climate justice, respect and protection of natural resources.
SOCIO-ENVIRONMENTAL CONFLICTS GENERATED BY EXTRACTIVISM
Extractivism and the installation of these projects without consulting the general population, as well as the pollution they generate in the territory and rivers, has generated socio-environmental conflict and the criminalization of the defenders of the territory and rivers, as happened with the environmentalists of Guapinol who were subjected to an illegal detention and trial for two years and six months.
The eight defenders were finally released after almost 30 months in illegal detention in penal centers; however, the company responsible for their criminalization, Grupo EMCO Holding, continued its work in Carlos Escaleras National Park through its subsidiaries Inversiones Los Pinares, with two open-pit mining projects in the area, and Ecotek with the construction of the «first iron oxide pelletizing plant in Central America».
Another case of socio-environmental conflict, with human rights repercussions, is the mining concession in Azacualpa, municipality of La Unión, in the western department of Copán, which covers a Maya Chortí cemetery that is more than two hundred years old.
Despite two final rulings by the Constitutional Chamber and the Court of Appeals of Santa Rosa de Copán, the company Minerales de Occidente S.A. de C.V. (Minosa), a subsidiary of the company’s subsidiary Minerales de Occidente S.A. de C.V., has not been able to obtain a mining concession in Azacualpa. (Minosa), a subsidiary of the transnational Aura Minerals, in collusion with local authorities, continues to exhume the remains of the ancestors of the inhabitants of Azacualpa, despite their opposition.
During the visit of the Secretary of Human Rights, Natalie Roque Sandoval, to the community of Azacualpa, one of the inhabitants expressed the pain of not knowing where his daughter, son and father were buried, after their remains were exhumed from the cemetery of San Andres.
«My daughter was twelve years old when she died of a heart valve deficiency and today I don’t know where she is. Who authorizes these atrocities?» he asked Roque Sandoval and the rest of the officials who accompanied him on the visit.
The number of mining concessions in Honduras amounts to at least 372. These are located in the departments of Atlántida, Colón, Comayagua, Copán, Cortés, Choluteca, El Paraíso, Francisco Morazán, Gracias a Dios, La Paz, Lempira, Ocotepeque, Olancho, Santa Bárbara, Valle and Yoro. Which means that out of the 18 departments that make up Honduras, 16 have mining concessions. In 2018 there were a total of 302 mining concessions.