Honduras Bans Open Mining

Honduras’ newly elected government President Xiomara Castro banned open pit mining, declaring the activity harmful to humans and the environment. Xiomara said it would cancel the license to operate this type of mining.

The move announced by the left-wing leader on Monday (1/3) was welcomed by rights defenders and environmentalists but left uncertainty for the mining industry.

“The whole area of ​​Honduras is declared free of open pit mining,” the Ministry of Mines and Environment said in a statement.

“The extractive exploitation permit approval was canceled because … it threatens natural resources and public health as well as restricts access to water as a human right,” he added.

The statement does not specify whether new or existing permits apply to open pit mining, or surface mining.

In office since January 27, Castro announced that banning open pit mining was one of his priorities, including fighting crime, poverty and corruption, which were seen as rampant under his predecessor Juan Orlando Hernandez.

The ministry also pledged to “immediately” take action to preserve areas of “high ecological value” and secure their benefits to residents.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras welcomed the ban, which it said was in line with “the principles of climate justice and the protection of natural resources, public health and access to clean water as human rights.”

But Santos Gabino Carvajal of the National Miners Association in Honduras called the announcement “ambiguous” and a potential violation of mining laws.

The announcement “prohibits even the extraction of rock and sand for construction,” Santos said, adding the move could “threaten development.” [mg/em]