TOPICS

Honduras and its return to the “Golden Age” -

Honduras and its return to the “Golden Age” -

To begin with, it must be recognized that both the mining activity of today and of the past has as its primary objective the extraction of precious metals from the subsoil for the benefit of their patrons - not the local community. In the past, these sponsors were the members of the Spanish royalty, now they are the shareholders.

Index
Will the Secondary Regulations fill the "gaps" in the New Mining Law?
- Prospecting
- Of exploration and exploitation
- Of the benefits and guarantees to the concession holders
- The tenure regime of the superficial property
- The granting of mining and benefit concessions
- The creation of the mining authority
- Of the municipal tax

And the environmental policy manual? Establishment of guarantees for land restoration. The "New Investors"

- The exploration companies
- Some of the projects "in development" - communities on alert
- Gold Mines
- The Lilies
- Cacamuya / Cedars
- Buzzard
- The Mosquitia?
- El Ocote

The operating companies El Mochito Mine San Martín Mine
Vueltas del Río Mine
San Andrés mine
Cerros del Sur Mine

conclusion
Annex a: Articles of the 1968 Mining Code whose important concepts were omitted in the New Law
Annex b: The 60 largest mining concessionaires at the beginning of 2000
- summary by year based on ASONOG list
Annex c: the 60 natural or legal persons with the highest number of concessions at the beginning of the year 2000
- summary by type of concession based on the ASONOG list

Introduction

We recently read an article in "Honduras This Week" entitled "Honduras is worth more than gold" where the author exposes the high ecological / environmental risks that our rural communities have begun to face thanks to the new Mining Law of 1999.
The report highlights how "under the waters still churned by Hurricane Mitch" the mining industry took advantage of our misfortune and the need to recover economically to "convince" our respectable authorities to "modernize" the current law [in their favor] with the purpose [excuse] of creating a new pillar of economic development.

Said article penetrated our national sentiment and that is how we spent several hours of our free time to examine the mining law and the profile of several recently established mining companies in Honduras. The result of this study made us remember historical passages of the Spanish conquest in Latin America that relate how the conquerors "cajoled" our natives to exchange gold for little mirrors ...

To begin with, it must be recognized that both the mining activity of today and of the past has the primary objective of extracting precious metals from the subsoil to benefit your sponsors - not the local community. In the past, these sponsors were members of the Spanish royalty, now they are the shareholders. Thanks to the industrial revolution and capitalist development of the last centuries, mining companies have developed new organizational structures and exploitation systems for the sake of productive optimization. Although there has also been progress in reducing the negative impact that new production processes have on the environment and health of local communities, these aspects continue to occupy a second place.

While the Spanish developed tunnel-based mines, used a large amount of labor, and used few chemicals to extract the gold, now "their descendants" exploit the subsoil in the open, they use large machinery that generates an incredible amount of waste. quarry, and use cyanide acid-based solutions to extract gold from the removed soil. Additionally, thanks to new technology, miners can now calculate the number of years that the mine will be productive and plan well in advance the search and migration of their operations to other projects (inside or outside of Honduras).

In response to these modern times and the need to obtain additional sources of income and employment, the Honduran government issued the new Mining Law in 1999 which, given its imbalance in favor of mining interestsIt is an excellent incentive that we are sure will attract foreign investors without DEFOMIN having to spend a single Lempira on promotion.

We agree that the 1968 Mining Code needed to be reformed and divided into three documents: a) the law, defining the new legal and conceptual framework; b) the regulations, detailing definitions and procedures; and c) the Mining Environmental Policy manual, controlling the secondary, qualitative, and long-term effects of mining activity.

Unfortunately the content of the new law and the absence of detailed and judicious secondary regulations is an unconditional surrender of our natural resources and destinies of many rural communities to an industry whose transitory presence will leave us deep and permanent scars!

Will secondary regulations fill the "gaps" in the new Mining law?

To begin with, we wish to express our support and admiration for the efforts that the Honduran State makes to update our laws in response to the new social, economic and cultural realities in which we live, in order to lay the foundations that allow us to better face the challenges of the globalization and world liberalization.
All creation or modification of law is a task of great citizen responsibility that must have, as a starting point and final goal, the common welfare of society. This requires a lot of vision and planning when defining the legal framework and a professional and conscientious state organization that is in charge of its execution.

A law does not need to be perfect from the beginning, what it requires is to be improved based on reforms that, if carried out in a timely and correct manner, ensure respect for these laws and their respective compliance by the general population.

After comparing the new 1999 Mining Law with the 1968 Mining Code, on the one hand we have identified several articles that, in our opinion, should have been transferred to the new law (see Annex A), and on the other, articles in the new law that turn out to be too broad, ambiguous, or inaccurate. To date, we have not obtained a copy of the new regulations or the Mining Environmental Policy Manual. We understand that they are still being completed and we hope that these documents will fill in the "gaps" detailed below.

We do not know what kind of "reflections and studies" were carried out to "modernize" the 1968 mining law, but let us share with you the steps taken by the Canadian government to develop the 1995 Environmental Studies Act:

* The law was the result of five (5) years of public consultation throughout the country, including two (2) years of intensive scrutiny by Parliament.
* Sustainable development was a fundamental goal.
* Perhaps what the Government requires is to define exactly what areas of the national territory that can be considered as mining areas.
* The law sought to reduce legal uncertainties and the need for interpretations by the courts.
* Public participation was another of his goals by offering more opportunities for the public to contribute during the environmental studies.
* Every development project receives an adequate degree of environmental review. The degree depends on the scale and complexity of the ecological effects that the project is expected to cause. Four types of environmental reviews were defined: basic analysis, intensive analysis, mediation, and analysis committee.
* The law required several regulations which were developed after consultation with other governments, the private sector, environmental and indigenous groups, and the general public.

To rectify errors or omissions today will be much less painful for the State than to do it tomorrow & # 8230;

-Prospecting This chapter establishes that "prospecting is free throughout the national territory." It makes no mention of the National System of Protected Areas, whose parks and natural reserves should have been explicitly excluded from any prospecting.

Due to the lack of exceptions we now host "exploring moles" from Copán to La Mosquitia. Why allow small excavations (and erosions in) the soil of areas where exploration and exploitation should NOT be allowed? What mechanisms has the Mining Authority established to ensure that such activities will not take place in the recently created Mesoamerican Biological Corridor?

- Of Exploration and Exploitation

Article 9 of this section declares that "exploration and exploitation activities are carried out under the title of Mining Concession".

This modification to article 8 (see Annex A) and elimination of articles 14 to 54 of the 1968 Mining Code, is not consistent with the fact that the technical skills and financial capacity of the new exploration companies are significantly lower than those required. for the proper functioning of sophisticated exploitation operations. On the contrary, what we expected with the modernization of the law, including its regulations, is that they would have been clearly defined:

1. The minimum requirements for a Cía. Explorer can operate in the country:
1.1. Type and systems of exploration;
1.2. Minimum capital requirements and technical experience of its employees and / or subcontractors; Y
1.3. Bank guarantees to ensure the restoration of the explored lands. Depending on the area and topographic characteristics of the explored lands, the amount, type, and issuer of the guarantee would be determined. The more ambitious the exploration project, the more justification for requiring that the issuer of the guarantee be a nationally or internationally recognized bank and that it be endorsed jointly and unconditionally by the parent company of the Cía. scout abroad (if applicable). Such guarantees should be negotiated and accepted by the Ministry of Finance (or Finance).

2. The minimum requirements to operate as a Cía. exploiter:
2.1. Minimum experience of 15 years in similar operations;
2.2. Copies of the initial land restoration plan for said mines and results of their current implementation (with photographs);
2.3. Minimum capital and technical experience of your employees and / or subcontractors, and
2.4. Type and systems of exploitation to be used in the concession;
2.5. Bank guarantees that ensure the adequate restoration of the exploited lands, coming from a recognized international bank and that are endorsed jointly and unconditionally by the parent company abroad. Such guarantees should be negotiated and accepted by the Ministry of Finance (or Finance).

3. On the concessions themselves:
3.1. No concession is transferable without prior authorization from the mining authority.
3.2. The Cía. interested in acquiring a concession must meet the requirements defined for new applicants.
3.3. If the transfer of the concession is approved, the new concessionaire must confirm in writing that it unconditionally assumes all the obligations generated by the activities of the Cía. assignor.
3.4. All subcontractors used in the operations of the concession must be reported to the Mining Authority.

4. It should be evident that obtaining an exploration concession does not imply the automatic approval of an exploitation concession.

Finally, it is extremely important that the Honduran Government keep abreast of the corporate and financial dynamism of the companies operating in the country, from the subsidiaries directly operating the concession to the parent company, inside and outside the country, for the following reasons:

a) The fiduciary or mortgage guarantees that a mining company (specifically the junior) could offer directly to the State are much riskier than the banking ones since they exist today but tomorrow they may vanish (via consolidation or liquidation). Thus, the Government should only accept bank guarantees from a recognized banking institution that are guaranteed by the most solid and stable company in the corporate chain. In the case of the San Martín Mine (see section below), the strongest company is not Entre-Mares (Honduras) or Mar-West (USA) but Glamis Gold Ltd. (USA).

b) The financial situation of the new exploration companies is much weaker than that of well-known exploiting companies. A prolonged reduction in international metal prices (eg gold) and / or a lack of working capital can quickly bankrupt those explorers who try to develop mining projects on their own (San Andrés / Geomaque).

If the Government is not clear and strict in the previous points, it would mean unnecessarily exposing our peoples and environment to the same "plague" that hit the town of San Andrés (read Title Of the Granting of Mining and Benefit Concessions).

- Of the Benefits and Guarantees to the Concession Holders

Paragraph 1 of Article 22 mentions that the holders enjoy free use of the concession area in the case of "unproductive lands of the State." The lack of definition of when a land is productive or not is one of the biggest gaps in the new law that should be clearly defined in the regulation (?).

Defining the term "unproductive" should be a process that includes the participation of the private sector, environmental groups, and indigenous people. Personally, the only terrains that we consider "unproductive" are deserts without cactus. The rest of the lands produce oxygen and shade to a greater or lesser degree, others produce fruits, and even the most bald, with their few herbs and / or shrubs, delay the erosion of the soils generated by storms and the overflowing of rivers that lead to floods.

Paragraph 10 of the same Article establishes that the owners (mining companies) must obtain a response within the legal deadlines, if the response does not occur within the indicated period then it is considered by right that the request has received tacit approval from the authority.

This clause causes astonishment since it places "bureaucratic efficiency" in favor of the mining companies! Imagine that every government procedure had that clause, let's consider some examples of what would happen:
* If the lawyer of a person sentenced to prison submits a request for parole and does not receive an answer from the court within a defined period, it would mean that the accused would automatically receive the right to said freedom.
* Companies that request permission to cut down forests and their documents are not reviewed within the established deadline, would obtain automatic approval to cut down the trees & # 8230;

Subsection 11 grants the Mining companies the right to temporarily suspend operations for market reasons. Question: what is the maximum time that these companies can temporarily suspend their operations. Where is mention made of the rights that workers have in that period of time?

Article 24 mentions that mining and benefit concessions are irrevocable except if they do not pay the respective taxes (see articles 35 and 36). This article is laughable. It is like establishing that vehicle licenses are irrevocable except when people do not pay vehicle tax. Both cases distort the close link that exists between the rights granted to carry out public order activities (eg exploiting mines / driving), and the respective responsibilities assumed (eg avoiding pollution / driving sober).

What happens if a company does not respect our forest or environmental laws? Will the Regulation or Environmental Policy Manual mention the fact that a concession can be suspended for continuous violations of preventive measures for pollution?

- Of the Tenure Regime of the Superficial Property

This section in its different articles is like walking in a mined area. It begins with raising the mining right to the same level as the private property right protected by the Constitution of the Republic. Then, it implicitly qualifies all mining initiatives as of utility or public interest, which allows their representatives to request the expropriation of private lands when there are serious disagreements with the owners of those lands, in exchange for compensation.

To top it off, even when the landowners institute legal actions in opposition to the easement, the mining companies have the right to continue mining. Thus, this section not only puts landowners at a disadvantage to potential corporate invaders, but also allows the latter to start their operations while the validity of the application is challenged. If the current owners were to win in their opposition, if the lawsuit takes a considerable time, they may recover land similar to the lunar surface.

In general, this section defines an opposition procedure that, from a purely administrative point of view, gives mining companies all the advantage. First, landowners most likely live in remote areas - which we will call "threatened land" - where the newspapers will scarcely reach. But let's assume that by chance they get a copy of the Gazette or the newspaper where the concession request is published. If the news is read a week after its publication, the interested party - whom we will call Juan Pueblo - only has one week left to prepare his trip to one of the cities where he can present his opposition.

Juan will have to spend on hotel, transportation, and food, while waiting for the appointment from the Mining authority. If Juan is lucky, the appointment will be made in a couple of days, otherwise he will have to go back to threatened land and return about 10 days later. If on the day of the appointment Juan leaves the bus or becomes ill, his opposition is officially considered abandoned. On the other hand, if the representative of the mining company forgets to go to the appointment - whose place may be 3 blocks from his office - in this case the Mining Authority would simply call another appointment in the next 6 days. Juan, who is wasting time and money, cannot fail to miss any of the appointments, otherwise his opposition (and eventually his land) will be "deserted." Does the law establish a maximum limit of absences by the representative of the mining company?

- Of the Granting of Mining and Benefit Concessions

The concession application process is clear in terms of what to do next. However, nowhere are the minimum requirements that concessionaires must have with regard to the financial strength of the company, years of operation locally and internationally, number of employees, and technical qualification of its personnel, among others.

Know the "Corporate Curriculum" of the companies. mining is a key element to assure Honduran society that mining projects will be carried out seriously and responsibly from exploration to closure of the mine and the subsequent restoration of the mined lands.

A clear example of the importance of the above is provided by the case of the San Andrés Mine in Copán: How much did our Mining Authority know about the international operations and financial situation of the company Greenstone Resources Ltd.?

What is now known about Greenstone is that it began operations in Canada in 1983 as an exploration company (see section "The New Industrialists"). In the mid-1990s, after having identified several areas with mining potential in Panama, Nicaragua, and later Honduras, it decided to become an operating company. However, due to both internal and external factors, its financial condition in the last four years of operation (1995-1999) reflected only negative cash flows that led it to finally declare bankruptcy in early 2000.

And it was to this company, with an unstable financial situation, that the operations of the mine and the future of the village of San Andrés were entrusted to it!

- Of the Creation of the Mining Authority

Two years have passed since the Executive Directorate for the Promotion of Mining was created. It would be worth evaluating the added value that this dependency has generated since its creation; as well as examining the type of coordination and support given to the rest of the agencies in charge of natural resources and the environment.

- Of the Municipal Tax

One of the greatest advantages of the presence of the new corporate neighbors in rural areas is the payment of the tax on the total monthly value of sales or exports to the municipalities - although it is worth mentioning that this 1% municipal tax remained " enano "when compared with the exploitation royalties that the State intended to collect based on the repealed article 112 of the Mining Code, whose range was from 5% to 20% of sales.

Because internal sales (intercompany) can be subject to accounting manipulation, municipal authorities should use as a basis for calculating the prices quoted for the respective metals, at the end of each month, by the New York Stock Exchange. If the municipal authorities do not have access to such information, the Mining Authority could, if deemed practical, provide them with such data on a regular basis.

[A few hours after completing this analysis of the law, we found an analysis made by other compatriots under the following Internet page of Environmental Alert: http://rds.org.hn/alerta-ambiental/docs/minas/index. html We decided not to make any changes to this version so that the interested party can compare the similarity of criteria and points highlighted by different groups of professionals.]

And the Environmental Policy Manual?

Even without having read the (draft) Mining Environmental Policy Manual, it is presumed that its articles will cover the following aspects of environmental protection, which are considered essential by the Center for Mineral Policy, Washington D.C. :

* Rainwater Management. The co. Mining companies must take responsibility for preventing excess rainwater from falling into cyanide pools as this could overflow into nearby streams or the subsoil.

Control of Surface Waters. It is necessary to divert all the natural springs or drains of water that exist around the mine, and prevent the sediment from being washed into the streams.

Filtration monitor at the bottom of the separation ponds and complete piping system. In some parts of the US, two layers at the base are now required as well as monitoring the gap between synthetic adhesives to detect spills. Two layers, a spill detection system, and a clay reinforcing layer underneath the synthetic bottom layer should be required on all exploitation as well as frequent monitoring of groundwater wells.

Protection of wildlife. Prevent animal access to cyanide pools and properly treat all releases from pools to ensure they are safe for fish and people.

Restoration and Treatment. Establish systems that prevent abandoned quarry wastes from oxidizing and generating acids that then enter groundwater layers. The land after its exploitation must be usable and pleasing to the eye.

A long-term monitoring program should be required at every mine after its completion.
* This should include surface and subsoil water sampling, along with a corrective plan to detect a toxic spill.
* Every major mine must have an oversight board led by local citizens as a condition for its exploitation permit to be approved.
* Finally, before they can begin operations, the mining companies must present bank guarantees so that the public [people] do not end up absorbing the costs of the clean-up once the mining companies leave the country. "

Establishment of guarantees for land restoration.

Once the law and its regulations reflect the foregoing, every exploration and / or mining company would be required to present bank guarantees that assure the Honduran State that its operations will comply with environmental regulations during and after the exploitation of the mine. .

The type and amount of the guarantee depends on the land (vegetation and area) affected by the mining operation, the land restoration plan to be followed by the company, the costs estimated by the concessionaire, and the cost analysis, prepared by a independent environmental company, which the Honduran Government would have to incur in order for a specialized environmental company to finalize the restoration plan (in case the mining company does not complete it).

Said document (certificates of term deposit, letter of credit, bond) must remain valid until the corresponding authorities (Minera, Recursos Naturales) consider that the mining company has complied with the restoration plan and the guarantee is declared void (Min . Finance).

Thus, the following are parties involved in meeting this requirement:
- The mining company;
- The Honduran State (Ministry of Finance or Finance, Natural Resources, DEFOMIN);
- the bank issuing the guarantees;
- the company specialized in environmental studies and land restoration (a foreign environmental agency with extensive experience in this field is recommended);
- The owners of neighboring land and the community in general.

This requirement is well known to foreign operating companies since they are part of the normal operating conditions in many other countries. Thus, there should be no opposition to its implementation in Honduras. In a complementary way, these companies should establish reserves in their financial statements for the restoration of exploited lands.

The "New Investors"

Since the late 1980s, Honduras began to receive an increasing number of visits from mining companies that, by the mid-1990s, had studied and recognized the mining potential of our country.

According to a list issued by the Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (ASONOG) between 1996 and 1998, exploration or exploitation concessions were issued to more than 100 natural or legal persons that together cover approximately 30% of the national territory.

Based on these data, it can be deduced that the law was not really modified in 1999 to promote the [already recognized] mining potential of the country, but rather to facilitate the companies. explorers their excavation, sampling, promotion, and sale of their projects to cías. exploiters.

Below we present several of the protagonists, whom we have separated due to their operational nature, although legally it seems that there is no longer a division. Note that although there are companies with different legal names, the shareholders or partners are intertwined like the law.

The Explorer Companies

In simple language, these companies are "treasure hunters" who speculate (bet) that they will find land rich in mineral deposits that they can then exploit in co-investment with or sell to interested exploitation companies. In Honduras, several of these companies are originally from Canada and / or the US and of recent legal constitution, even at the parent company level (mid-1990s).

The number and role of these small companies - especially subsidiaries of foreign companies - has been increasing due to the restructuring of large mining companies in the 80s and 90s that created a surplus of experienced geologists and the possibilities of speculative financing in the markets. of values.

Due to the high financial risk associated with exploration, these companies do not obtain financing from traditional banking entities but rather resort to their own (private) resources, financing through the sale of shares on stock exchanges, or co-investments with other mining companies.

Explorers are the first point of contact between the mining industry and rural communities. Even though their operations are smaller in scale than exploiters, they can have a significant ecological and social impact on communities since they are less regulated and have less technical / environmental expertise than exploiters.

- Some of the Projects "in Development" - Communities on Alert

According to a report recently published in the Honduran newspaper, in a period of 5 years the Government granted concessions covering more than 30% of the Honduran territory. Years later, several of these projects are in advanced stages of exploration. In this chapter we will describe those projects most actively promoted by their concessionaires abroad and we assume that therefore they are the most advanced exploration projects:

On the other hand, we will remain attentive to the activities carried out by natural or legal persons that have large areas of concessions such as:
Reynaldo A. Nuñez / Iran Ramírez /Armando Wilfredo Ramirez. Personas naturales que obtuvieron varias concesiones cubriendo miles de hectáreas.
Merendon Mining Corp. (Canadá) – Compañía privada basada en Calgary que entre los años de 1996 y 1997 adquirió la mayor cantidad de concesiones en Honduras, cubriendo un área aproximada de más de 165,000 hectáreas.
Begeyge de Honduras (?) – Begeyge Mineral Limitada adquirió de la Fisher Watt Gold una propiedad que la Apex Silver tiene opción de comprar bajo el nombre Suyatal (?). Begeyge a su vez goza de derechos de regalía sobre la explotación del proyecto de Minoro que la Tombstone adquiriese de la Fisher Watt.
DEPCON; Borbon Consulting; Link Honduras; e INDEMI, entre otras.

Minas de Oro
Este proyecto se encuentra en el área geográfica aledaña al pueblo del mismo nombre. La naturaleza de esta zona sobresale por pintoresca, por sus riachuelos de aguas cristalinas, por su clima fresco, y por sus vecinos humildes, educados y hospitalarios.

El pueblo de Minas de Oro, ubicado en el departamento de Comayagua a 90 kilómetros de Tegucigalpa, fué fundado hace unos 200 años por colonizadores españoles que abrieron túneles en las montañas para explotar los recursos minerales. A principios de los años 80, Minas de Oro fue honrada con el reconocimiento del Gobierno de Honduras como "pueblo educativo" ya que posee una de las tasas más altas de alfabetismo en el país.

A principios de los años 90, las empresas Kennecott y Fisher Watt Gold (USA) establecieron una sociedad para explorar las montañas alrededor del pueblo de Minas de Oro. Al cabo de un tiempo dicha sociedad vendió el proyecto a la Tombstone Explorations Co. Ltd. (Canadá) quien es ahora la propietaria de la concesión de explotación por 40 años. Tombstone traducido al español significa "lápida" – ¿llevará esto un mensaje escondido?

En 1999, Tombstone adquiere el 20% de la participación que tuviese su socia Mar-West para convertirse en dueña del 100% del "proyecto Minoro". Esta consolidación es el primer paso que toman las exploradoras para facilitar la labor de promoción y negociación de co-inversión con y/o venta del proyecto a una Cía. minera explotadora.

La zona concesionada cubre un área aproximada de 10,000 hectáreas en cuyas cercanías hay varios pueblos donde habitan aproximadamente unas 20,000 personas. Según la Tombstone las áreas que ofrecen mejor potencial en orden de mayor a menor son: Tatanacho, Montecielo, Minas Viejas, El Peñon, San Antonio, Las Margaritas, El Cerrito, y Cerro Grande.

En cuanto a su valor "productivo", estas montañas sirven de pulmones en la zona central de país, tienen un gran potencial turístico, y generan agua que alimenta los ríos que desembocan en la represa de agua del proyecto hidroeléctrico "Francisco Morazán" (El Cajón). Una operación minera a gran escala en esta zona tendría un impacto negativo indirecto en la generación de energía eléctrica y sus pozas de cianuro constituirían una amenaza latente y a largo plazo sobre las corrientes naturales de agua. En base a lo anteriormente expuesto, hacemos un llamado a la Autoridad Minera para que no permita el inicio de la explotación por la Tombstone hasta que sus planes operativos sean debidamente presentados y estudiados por los representantes de las comunidades que serán directamente afectadas.

La Tombstone todavía se encuentra en etapa de promoción del proyecto "Minoro" ante compañías inversionistas y/o de explotación. Por lo que todavía estamos a tiempo para asegurarnos que esta operación en particular no causará daños ambientales irreparables. ¿Lograrán los intereses económicos callar y prevalecer sobre la oposición manifestada por ciudadanos conscientes de estas comunidades? Los mantendremos informados…

Los Lirios
Este proyecto, ubicado en Choluteca, esta siendo explorado por la cía. Maya Gold Limited (Canadá), la cual a pesar de haber sido formada tan solo en 1996, afirma controlar concesiones por más de 120,000 acres en Honduras (pequeño minifundios). Las concesiones de mayor potencial son Casas Viejas (¿Yoro?) y el Triunfo (Choluteca), es en esta última donde esta ubicada los Lirios.

A principios del 2001, Maya comenzó la segunda fase de exploración en los Lirios, gracias al financiamiento otorgado por la cía. Billiton, Plc (Inglaterra), miembro de "las ligas mayores de

Vale mencionar que uno de los miembros de la Junta Directiva de Maya Gold laboró como Director Financiero de Glamis Gold hasta 1998 – ¿pequeño mundo, no creen? Para mayor información sobre Maya Gold pueden visitar sus páginas de Internet www.mayagold.com

Cacamuya / Cedros
Cacamuya es un proyecto de oro/plata en Choluteca, el de Cedros es un proyecto de plata/zinc/cobre, ambos siendo explorados por la cía. First Point Mineral Corp. (Canadá)
First Point es una cía. de exploración creada recién a mediados de la década anterior. El proyecto de Cacamuya lo exploró inicialmente en asociación con Breakwater Resources Ltd., quien decidió no participar en la siguiente fase de exploración, y Battle Mountain Gold (Minera BMG), otra cía. minera que estuvo / ha estado involucrada en otros programas de exploración junto con Tombstone y Orinoco Gold (ej. Agua Fría, El Paraíso).

La concesión de Cedros es de aproximadamente 6,000 hectáreas. First Point tiene la opción de comprar la concesión a la cía. Five Star Mining S.A. de C.V. Hace algunos años la Five Star también había ofrecido la opción de comprar la concesión de Agalteca a la Tombstone. La página de internet de First Point es: www.firstpointminerals.com

Zopilote
Este proyecto está ubicado en las faldas de la Sierra de Omoa, Santa Bárbara, y esta siendo desarrollado por la Standard Mining Corporation (Canadá), formada a principios de los años 90. En los años 1994-95 la Standard celebró un acuerdo con la Cía. Aurora Exploración que le dió el control de 11 propiedades de exploración (incluyendo la propiedad del Zopilote) en Honduras con un área total de 304 millas cuadradas.
Recientemente la concesión del Zopilote fue expandida a aprox. 60 millas cuadradas al anexarse 22 millas cuadradas de terrenos aledaños. Para más información visite www.standardmining.com
La MosquitiaUna compañía que parece tener propiedades desde Copán hasta la Mosquitia es la Intrepid Minerals Corporation (Canadá), fundada a mediados de los 90s y que en Honduras se ha establecido bajo las siguientes subsidiarias: Minera Geoex S.A., Avc. Fenix S. de R.L., Intrepid Minerals S.A., y Gracias a Dios Minerals S. de R.L.

El proyecto de la Mosquitia esta formado por cuatro concesiones que cubren un área de 978 kilómetros cuadrados. Otros proyectos son: Cerro Azul (El Paraíso) con un área de 68 kilómetros cuadrados; La Trinidad (Santa Bárbara?) con un área de 160 kilómetros cuadrados; Sofía (Talanga, Fco. Morazán) con un área de 294 kilómetros cuadrados; en Copán tiene dos proyectos contiguos a la mina de San Andrés: la concesión de Erapuca, con 150 kilómetros cuadrados, y Las Lajas, una concesión de 160 kilómetros cuadrados que ha sido negociada con Five Star Mining. Finalmente, el último proyecto es el de La Labor (Ocotepeque) con un área de 53 kilómetros cuadrados.
Para más información ver la página www.intrepidminerals.com/website/property.html
El Ocote
Ubicada en el Municipio de La Labor, Ocotepeque, esta propiedad de aprox. 400 hectáreas es una concesión pactada entre la cía. Minera Ocote (Honduras) y la cía. Apex Silver Mines (Islas del Gran Cayman).
En 1998, Apex Silver era propietaria de una concesión en Tatumbla para la exploración de oro, la cual fue ofrecida a la cía. Cyprus Minerals (ahora subsidiaria de Phelps Dodge Corp). Nos es incierto saber si Cyprus compró dicha opción. La página de internet de Apex es www.apexsilver.com

Las Compañías Explotadoras

Entre las operaciones de explotación más destacadas están:

Mina El Mochito
Con más de 53 años en operación, esta es la mina veterana de Honduras y actualmente es propiedad de la cía. Canadiense Breakwater Resources Ltd. Su objetivo primordial es la explotación del zinc y su sistema de extracción es en base a túneles. En los últimos años no parecen que se hayan reportado mayores daños ambientales generados por esta mina. Esperamos que esto se deba a sus medidas de seguridad y no a manipulación de los hechos.

Mina San Martín
Ubicada en el valle de Siria, esta operación sirve como claro ejemplo de lo compleja y dinámica que es la estructura participativa de una empresa minera (especialmente la exploradora) más allá de la empresa local (Entre-Mares), del mercado secundario que existe de compra-venta de concesiones, y en general del estrecho vínculo existente entre las diferentes compañías de esta industria, muy parecida a las telarañas.

A finales de 1995, la empresa Mar-West Resources Ltd. (Canada), a través de su subsidiaria Minerales Entre-Mares S.A. (Honduras), adquiere la concesión de exploración de la propiedad de San Martín. En 1996, Mar-West se asocia con Curion Venture Corp. (Canada) para continuar el proyecto de exploración, adquiriendo Curion el 20% del proyecto. [En 1995, Mar-West adquiere el 20% del proyecto exploratorio de Minas de Oro (Minoro) de la cía. Tombstone].

En Agosto de 1998, Mar-West compra de regreso el 20% del proyecto San Martín a Curion quien recibe a cambio acciones de Mar-West, es decir que Curion se vuelve accionista de su antigua socia. Esto le da a Mar-West el 100% del control en el proyecto San Martín. Unos días más tarde, se anuncia la compra de Mar-West por parte de Glamis Gold Ltd. (USA) a través del intercambio de acciones y efectivo. Al final de este episodio, los accionistas de Mar-West se convierten en accionistas de Glamis y Mar-West en empresa subsidiaria de Glamis. La Tombstone es ahora uno de los accionistas de Glamis.

La página de Internet de Alerta Ambiental ofrece fotografías en su página de Internet sobre las operaciones de esta mina: http://rds.org.hn/alerta-ambiental/docs/minas/index.html.
Quién es Glamis Gold Ltd. ?
Es una empresa estadounidense formada legalmente a principios de los años 70 en Reno, Nevada. Para aquellos que no conocen Nevada, este es uno de los Estados más desérticos en EUA y de acuerdo a la Agencia de Protección Ambiental es el contaminante número 1 de ese país – gracias a los desechos tóxicos de la industria minera.

Algunas de sus operaciones mineras más conocidas son: Dee y Marigold (Desiertos de Nevada); Rand y Picacho (Desiertos en California) y San Martín (cerros arbolados en Honduras). Para aquellos que deseen apreciar la gran diferencia topográfica entre las diferentes minas en EUA y la mina en Honduras, pueden ver su página de Internet www.glamis.com/properties/index.html

La paradoja más grande es que la operación de San Martín, la cual es la que sufrirá el mayor desgarre ecológico, es la que promete los costos más bajos para esta compañía (???). Según cifras presentadas por Glamis, el costo promedio de operar las minas en los desiertos de EUA es de US$ 200 por onza, mientras que la mina de San Martín sólo les costará US$ 150 por onza gracias a los incentivos (omisiones) otorgados por el Estado Hondureño. Se espera que la mina de San Martín tendrá una vida útil de 12 años. Sería interesante conocer sobre sus planes de restauración de los cerros erosionados – pero eso si, con los planos en una mano y la garantía bancaria en la otra.

Mina Vueltas del Río
Ubicada en el depto. de Santa Bárbara, esta propiedad de 10,000 hectáreas fue adquirida por la cía. Geomaque (Canadá) en 1997 después de haberse consolidado con Milagro Minerals Inc. Al visitar la página de Internet de esta compañía www.geomaque.com/2000/Audiovideo.html uno puede apreciar el área verde siendo "limpiada" por esta cía.

Geomaque se inició como una cía. dedicada a la exploración mineral hasta que a mediados de los 90 adquirió su primer mina en el Desierto de Sonora, México, llamada San Francisco. Vueltas del Río es su segunda operación minera.

Geomaque, siendo una compañía de explotación "junior" posee una posición financiera inestable, altamente vulnerable a los precios del oro. Afortunadamente a esta empresa el beneficio de suspensión temporal de operaciones por razones de mercado que otorga el inciso 11, (Ver – De la nuestra ley) le "cae de anillo al dedo".

Debido a los bajos precios del oro, en el primer trimestre del 2000, Geomaque anunció que suspendería operaciones en la mina de San Francisco . Por otro lado, en ese mismo período tuvo que detener la construcción en Vueltas del Río por falta de capital. Sin embargo, gracias a la obtención de un préstamo de 3.5 millones de dólares por parte de la Resource Capital Fund II LP (cuya administración esta asociada a la familia Rothchild), la construcción de Vueltas del Río fue reactivada.

Para mantener sus costos al nivel más bajo, Geomaque ha firmado un acuerdo con otra compañía (?) para que ésta dinamite, excave, y consolide la tierra a ser procesada. Según proyecciones de producción, Vueltas del Río tendrá una vida útil de aproximadamente 6 años. La pregunta del millón: ¿después de ese período como piensan restaurar la vegetación del área explotada? ¿Qué garantías de cumplimiento se le ha exigido?

Mina de San Andrés
Localizada en el depto. de Copán, esta operación ya ha sido mencionada brevemente en secciones anteriores. Entendemos que la mina ha pasado a manos de acreedores de la Greenstone (QDDG).
Alerta Ambiental posee una galería fotográfica de esta operación en su página electrónica:
http://rds.org.hn/alerta-ambiental/docs/minas/index.html
Minera Cerros del Sur Esta cía. opera una pequeña mina en Choluteca . Actualmente no se tienen mayores detalles.

Conclusión

La modernización de la ley de Minería es un pilar cuestionable de desarrollo puesto que descuida el ambiente y la calidad de vida a largo plazo de nuestra nación por el beneficio económico y a corto plazo de un reducido grupo de intereses nacionales y extranjeros.

La presencia significativa de cías. mineras exploradoras y la cantidad impresionante de concesiones solicitadas / otorgadas a mediados de los 90s apoyan la hipótesis de que hubo participación e influencia directa de este grupo en la redacción y aprobación en tan corto tiempo de la nueva ley de Minería.

Dicha ley limita la capacidad de auto-determinación de las diferentes comunidades rurales – a favor de la industria minera. Los amplios conceptos enunciados y la falta de reglamentos con procedimientos detallados son "ventanas de oportunidad" que le permiten a las compañías mineras el implementar operaciones bajo cualquier estándar. Es por eso que este "nuevo motor de desarrollo" se ha convertido en la mayor amenaza ecológica que Honduras haya enfrentado en los últimos tiempos, de no ser controlado oportuna y profesionalmente.

Grupos de compatriotas y amigos extranjeros conscientes de lo que esta sucediendo, hemos comenzado a reaccionar y no descansaremos hasta que Honduras cuente con un conjunto de leyes mineras equitativas y visionarias para beneficio de la gran parte de su población.

Que lo sucedido al pueblo de San Andrés en Copán sea el único caso que lamentar…

Anexo a: Artículos del Código de Minería de 1968 cuyos importantes conceptos fueron omitidos en la Nueva Ley

Art. 8. – El reconocimiento es libre en todo el territorio de la República, excepto en terrenos ocupados por un permiso vigente de exploración o por una concesión vigente de explotación o en zonas vedadas o reservadas por el Estado. La exploración no puede ejecutarse sin obtener previamente un Permiso General de Exploración. La explotación no puede ejecutarse sin obtener previamente una concesión de Explotación"

"Art. 13 – Por motivos de interés público el Estado podrá declarar ciertas zonas vedadas o reservadas, temporal o definitivamente, al reconocimiento, exploración, y explotación a que se refiere este Código, para la protección de riquezas forestales, arqueológicas, o zoológicas, o para fines urbanísticos o estratégicos…"

"Art. 17 – El permiso general de exploración es indivisible, no susceptible de ningún gravamen. Podrá ser cedido o traspasado solamente en su totalidad, previa autorización de la Dirección General de Minas e Hidrocarburos. En caso de cesión o de traspaso, los cesionarios asumirán todas las obligaciones del cedente.."

"Art. 33 – A la expiración de un permiso general de exploración o al ocurrir su renuncia, el permisionario deberá remitir a la autoridad minera la documentación relativa a los trabajos de exploración efectuados…"

"Art. 112 – Las empresas que se dediquen a la explotación de minerales pagarán al Estado, por concepto de regalías de explotación sobre el valor de venta de los minerales…"

"Art. 113 – Para el cálculo de las regalías se tomará como base el valor bruto de las ventas anuales conforme las cotizaciones del mercado internacional"

"Art. 120 – El permiso general de exploración deberá ser cancelado cuando el programa previsto en el Contrato de exploración no fuere ejecutado o las sumas mínimas anuales previstas no fueran invertidas…"

"Art. 121 – La Concesión de explotación será cancelada…2.- Si en el curso de vigencia de la explotación se hubieran suspendido los trabajos durante dos (2) años consecutivos sin razón justificada"

"Art. 130 – Es prohibida la contaminación con desechos de minas, de las corrientes, lagunas, estanques, y demás aguas naturales"

"Art. 144 – Los permisionarios de exploración y los concesionarios de explotación enviarán cada año a la autoridad minera el siguiente informe: 1- El balance general y demás estados financieros; 2 – Relación del personal empleado y su clasificación; 3 – Accidentes ocurridos durante el año, causas y medidas de prevención; 4 – Actividades mineras, geológicas y geofísicas, trabajos ejecutados, programa previsto y resultados obtenidos; estado de las reservas del mineral; 5 – Equipo y material utilizado, consumo de explosivos y de combustible, inventario del equipo, material en reserva; 6 – Contabilidad y justificación de las inversiones mínimas anuales en case de permisos de exploración; y 7 – En el caso de la concesión de explotación; producción obtenida, depósitos, ventas, cantidades exportadas, puerto de exportación y destino. Asimismo, se acompañarán: a) Copia de las liquidaciones obtenidas por venta de sus productos en el ejercicio del año anterior; b) Copia de los contratos de venta respectivos; c) Comentario justificatorio de las diferencias con los precios de los mercados internacionales, si los hubiere. El informe anual será obligatoriamente remitido a la Dirección General de Minas e Hidrocarburos, en el curso del primer trimestre de cada año y deberá considerarse como documento confidencial, salvo permiso del concesionario para la publicación de sus datos".

Anexo b: Los 60 mayores concesionarios mineros a principios del año 2000 – resumen por año basado en listado de la ASONOG

Anexo c: Las 60 personas naturales o jurídicas con mayor numero de concesiones a principios del añ0 2000 – resumen por tipo de concesión basado en listado de la ASONOG

Notes
1 “Honduras is worth more than gold” escrito por Michael Marsh. Honduras This Week @ www.marrder.com/htw/special/environment/87.htm , Marzo 5, 2001.

2 “Highlights of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act”, publicado por la Agencia de Estudios Ambientales de Canada. www.ceaa.gc.ca/act/highlights_e_.html

3 “Mesoamerican Biological Corridor is formally established” escrito por Suyapa Carías. Honduras This Week @ http://www.marrder.com/htw/special/environment/72.htm . Julio 17, 2000

4 Según la nueva Ley de Minería, el Manual de Política Ambiental Minera y los reglamentos serían elaborados en un plazo no mayor a 30 días hábiles a partir de la vigencia de la ley.
5 Traducción de la página www.miningwatch.org/emcbc/publications/guidelin.htm del Mineral Policy Center en Washington, D.C., sección de publicaciones titulada “Guidelines for a Responsible Mine”, Environmental Mining Council of British Columbia.

6 “Honduras is worth more than gold” escrito por Michael Marsh. Honduras This Week @ www.marrder.com/htw/special/environment/87.htm , Marzo 5, 2001.

7 www.tombstone-exp.com/newimages/MinoroMaps.htm

8 Extraído y traducido de la publicación del Mineral Policy Center titulada: “Mining Exposed as Top Toxic Polluter in U.S.”. www.mineralpolicy.org/index.php3 ? whatshot=3 Mayo 11, 2000.

9 Según reporte en el diario Canadiense “Globe and Mail”. Marzo 29, 2000.


Video: Honduras, Temporary Protective Status, and US Policy a History Talk podcast (September 2021).