The Honduras government and World Bank representatives met in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa to sign deals to allow foreign companies to mine in the country.
The two-day conference, called “Sustainable Use of Mineral Resources,” gathered experts from Peru, Mexico, Chile, Spain, Bolivia, Argentina, Colombia, the United States and Honduras. They discussed their different experiences and promoted Honduras as a mining country.
Mines in the country currently produce profits of around US$300 million annually. But if the new plan promoted by the World Bank is approved, international private companies could raise more than US$5 billion annually.
Foreign mining companies are present in 14 of Honduras’ 18 departments. In 2012, the government granted 487 additional mining permits. Under a new agreement with the World Bank, another 839 are currently being reviewed.
However, activists are concerned that mining is destroying the country.
In front of the hotel where the conference was taking place, members of different communities affected by mining projects protested against the impacts of mining on their health, access to water, and the destruction of the environment.
"In the Syria Valley, 21 of the 23 rivers that existed in the municipalities of El Porvenir and San Ignacio have disappeared because of the high water demand required in the mining industry. And mining has dried the soil and in that area," said José Luis Espinoza, a mining specialist.
The disappearance of the rivers is a direct result of Canadian mining company Goldcorp’s Entre Mares mine.
"The people have the right to water and to life. We have expressed ourselves very clearly. We are against mines because under the mining project, there are five water wells for our community where 12,000 people get their water," explained Raymundo Funes, a protester from the municipality of Pespire, in the south of the country.
The new agreement signed with the World Bank will double the presence of international mining companies, without any community consultation. This is part of President Juan Orlando Hernandez's push to attract more investment in Honduras from international corporations.