Honduran Minister says new mining restrictions not retroactive

San Andrés mine in Honduras. Photo by Aura Minerals.

The Honduran government’s recent push to sharply restrict mining will not apply to existing projects, the country’s environment and mining minister said on Friday, days after the ministry declared the industry harmful and pledged to cancel permits.

The government announced on Monday that permit cancellations, as well as a sweeping prohibition on open-pit mining, were needed due to harm the extractive sector poses to natural resources, public health and water access.

At a news conference in the capital Tegucigalpa, a reporter asked environment and mining Minister Lucky Medina if the government will stick to its declaration that Honduras be free from open pit mining.

“The measure never had a retroactive effect to strip those who have already obtained their licenses, nor strip them of their previous (licenses),” responded Medina.

“That’s an evidently judicial decision,” he added, in an apparent reference to any possible retroactive actions.

Open pit mines target ore-rich soil from sprawling surface deposits that is scooped up by giant trucks. They are often criticized by environmental advocates for their impacts.

A government statement issued before the minister’s remarks stressed the government “will supervise” some 28,000 hectares that have been granted in concessions for metallic and nonmetallic mining, but did not mention permit cancellations.

Medina’s comments will likely soothe concerns over the future of Canadian company Aura Minerals’ San Andres mine, an open-pit project in western Honduras.

The Aura Minerals project has been met by stiff local opposition in part due to alleged disturbances to a Maya-Chorti indigenous cemetery.

The new mining policies come from the 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.

Last year, Honduran mineral exports totaled $293 million, according to central bank data.

(By Gustavo Palencia and David Alire Garcia; Editing by Chris Reese)


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