One of the things you can count on in Honduras during the next four years is that there will be a lot more mining, mainly by foreign companies. In July 2013, President Lobo announced that the Honduran government, through the newly-created Honduran Institute of Geology and Mining (Inhgeomin), would award 280 concessions for mining as a way to increase revenue to help pay for the country’s growing public debt and lack of liquidity due primarily to an extremely inefficient tax collection system, widespread government incompetence and corruption, and a gross lack of national productivity. The concessions, made possible by the new Mining Law, pushed by President-elect Juan Orlando Hernández when he was president of the National Congress and passed by Congress on January 23, 2013, would essentially open up large swaths of Honduran land for all sorts of new mining, including the particularly destructive open pit kind.
With the Mining Law taking effect on April 23, 2013 and its regulations having entered into force on September 4, the path is now open for Inhgeomin to begin to seriously consider new mining and exploration permit applications. In December alone, there were at least 110 of these applications submitted. You can sense the momentum is quickly building for massive mining activity in Honduras by Canadians and others, as well as oil exploration off the country’s Caribbean coast by the British and others, and the continued construction of large hydroelectric projects (dams) by the Chinese and others.
All of this “investment” is being driven by the Honduran government’s thirst for capital… at any cost. It’s exactly the same reason the government has always had to borrow so much money from international and domestic banks and beg for foreign aid from foreign governments. Same reason it has had to then dispatch special emissaries pleading for debt pardons or desperately try to sell hundreds of millions of dollars of Honduran debt at extremely high rates of interest on international bond markets.
For reasons already generally stated in the first paragraph, Honduras never seems to have enough money to pay its bills and be able to invest wisely in its people to empower them to become self-sufficient and productive enough to successfully compete in world markets, or even regional ones. Consequently, its government all too often ends up trying to sell whatever it can to raise cash, quickly. It’s always like a yard sale in Honduras. Unfortunately (extremely so), this means selling off the natural resources of the country, which almost always ends up destroying the land and contaminating its water resources. This would be bad enough, degrading enough in-and-of-itself, but ultimately these type of “development” policies usually end up harming the vast majority of the Honduran people, especially those whose very survival depends on farming the land and drinking the water from the rivers, streams, and lakes. In other words, it is a method for starving and poisoning the people.
It’s a crazy sort of development advocated by short-sighted bureaucrats in Tegucigalpa (and backed by wealthy businessmen in San Pedro Sula) who seem isolated from the realities of the people in most of the rest of country, don’t care, or are at a complete loss for innovative alternative solutions. What is certain is that they are hell-bent on violating the cornerstone of the Hippocratic Oath, primum non nocere… first, do no harm. (1/3/14)