By Gustavo Palencia
TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Environmental permits for Honduran metal and non-metal mining will be cancelled, the country’s government said in a brief statement on Monday, describing the industry as harmful and declaring it will specifically prohibit open-pit mining.
The statement from the Ministry of Energy, Natural Resources, Environment and Mines added that natural areas with “high ecological value” will be preserved, without going into further detail.
“The approval of permits for extractive exploitation is cancelled due to being harmful to the state of Honduras, threatening natural resources, public health and because they limit access to water as a human right,” according to the ministry’s statement.
The energy and mining ministry did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on whether the permit cancellations will only affect new projects, or whether they will also apply to existing ones.
The announcement comes from the barely a month-old government of leftist President Xiomara Castro, who took office in January promising to pull the Central American nation “out of the abyss” caused by failed economic policies and rampant corruption.
Castro’s election manifesto released last September pledged to limit mining, prior to her victory at the polls in late November. The manifesto detailed 282 mining concessions doled out by previous governments through 2017, citing the country’s geology and mining institute.
Canada’s Aura Minerals operates an open-pit mine in western Honduras, where it has encountered stiff local opposition in part due to alleged disturbances to a Maya-Chorti indigenous cemetery.
Last year, the company suspended operations due to what it described as illegal blockades.
Aura Minerals’ San Andres mine processed more than 4.4 million tonnes of ore in 2020, producing nearly 61,000 ounces of gold, according to the company’s website.
Honduran mining export revenue from silver, zinc and lead projects in the country totalled nearly $130 million last year, according to central bank data, which did not include any revenue from gold shipments.
(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by David Alire Garcia, Chris Reese and Kenneth Maxwell)