The new Mining Law was approved by the National Congress on January 23, 2013. The law replaces the old Mining Law, which was invalidated in 2005 following a ruling by the Supreme Court repealing 13 of its articles, among which contained language dealing with the collection of taxes from the mining industry. For the past seven years, new mining concessions in Honduras have been on hold pending the passage of new legislation.
The new Mining Law was scheduled to take effect on April 23, when it was published in the government's official newspaper, La Gaceta, but the Lobo administration issued an executive order (No. 08-2013) to keep the law from taking effect until after Congress completes work on a set of regulations to guide its implementation and enforcement.
The Honduran Institute of Geology and Mines (Inhgeomin), which has replaced the Directorate for the Promotion of Mining (Defomin) as the oversight agency for mining activities in Honduras, has been ordered to postpone the processing of any applications for mining concessions. Inhgeomin is now also under the auspices of the Ministry of the Presidency, rather than the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (Serna).
Work on the regulations are about 75-80 percent complete. According to the executive director of Defomin, Aldo Santos, 75 of the 114 articles now have regulations -- which means that the awarding of new mining concessions should begin sometime this summer.
There are currently five mining companies operating in Honduras. Mr. Santos believes that there are 10-15 additional mining firms that are ready to enter Honduras and apply for concessions. You can bet that a few of these are Chinese. You sense that companies are lining up just itching to be able to start digging or lobbing off tops of hills and mountains in search of gold, silver, and other precious minerals. Of course, this should come as no surprise, given the puny 6 percent tax being levied on mining companies.
Six percent... in exchange for allowing firms to destroy about the only thing Honduras still has that is of any real value -- its natural beauty. And please don't bother to bring up all those jobs that will be created. We're talking hundreds, not thousands -- much less tens of thousands -- of jobs. Mining is not a hugely labor-intensive industry, and it certainly doesn't pay wonderful wages. What it is is a highly-polluting industry that poisons the streams, rivers, and lakes -- and much of what swims there. Ah, and let's not forget all the Hondurans who have little choice but to drink this water.
In short, Honduras is again preparing to sell itself for a mere pittance. The government receives a little extra income. The people get a few low-skilled jobs. The country gets polluted... and a lot more people (particularly children) get sick, sometimes really sick. Bad deal.
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Thanks for all
the positive responses and inquiries about the upcoming Conference on Honduras 2013: Prioritizing Sustainable Development on September 26-28 in Copán Ruinas. If you are interested in attending, please try to register as soon as possible, as space is limited. We are pleased that the US Ambassador, USAID Mission Director, and Consul General in Honduras have agreed to participate and speak at the event. We will be providing more details about the program soon, but note that we are planning to devote the second morning of the conference to concurrent workshops, including presentations and moderated team discussions on topics such as healthcare, education, environment, community building, and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene).
If you have any questions, please contact Sandra Romero de Thompson at
-Paulina Bendaña, Sandra Guerra, Sandra Romero de Thompson, and Al Steele