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Guapinol: Compelling Evidence Proves Illegal Mining in Botaderos Mountain for 5 Years

For Immediate Release

According to evidence presented today by the Municipal Committee for the Defense of Common and Public Goods of Tocoa (CMDBCPT) to the Secretary of State for Natural Resources Lucky Medina, Inversiones Ecotek company has been allowed to operate illegally in the "Carlos Escaleras" National Park since 2018, without an environmental license, and through the use of adulterated municipal acts and forged signatures. The action to present the evidence is part of a 20-day period to submit public opposition to the granting of a "functional" environmental license for the company's iron oxide processing and pelletizing plant.

Ecotek, a company that is part of Lenír Pérez and Ana Facussé's Emco Group's mining megaproject, has boasted that it is the largest pelletizing plant in Central America, and plans to process iron oxide from all of northern Honduras, not just Colón. In its communications with the State, it conceives of the Botaderos Mountain protected area as a "Mining District" and claims to have found more than 10 sites with the same geological and genetic characteristics, which puts the entire northern region of the country at risk.

Ecotek initially received a four-month "operational" environmental license in February 2018 and, days before it expired, and failing to meet the requirements for a "functional" license, received an extension in June 2018. According to the law, extensions of this type can only be granted for half the time of the initial license - in this case, it would be two months - but the Secretary of Natural Resources granted an extension for a full year, until June 2019, despite oppositions filed by CMDBCPT on two occasions.

Since its expiration in June 2019, Ecotek has operated without any environmental license. According to the law, extractive projects cannot operate in Honduras without an environmental license, but the Secretariat has refused to react, failing to comply with its national and international obligation to guarantee the human right to water and a healthy environment for the population.

Among the multiple documentary, ocular inspection and testimonial evidence presented by the CMDBCPT are the adulterated minutes used by the company to supposedly fulfill the requirements of community socialization. This fact was criminally denounced before the Special Prosecutor's Office for Transparency and Combating Public Corruption, FETCCOP, with a copy to SERNA, but it remains without investigation, demonstrating the institutional weakness of the state during the 2018-2022 period as a guarantor of community rights in light of impacts by a mining megaproject in their territory.

The CMDBCPT also delivered today contracts showing that Ecotek is processing minerals directly from the core zone of the national park - which is prohibited by law -, technical reports on the impacts to the Guapinol River and Ceibita Creek, and the Declaration of Mining Free Municipality signed by the government of the Municipality of Tocoa, Colón, in open municipal council held on Friday, November 29, 2019 with the citizen pronouncements of 36 pro-improvement community boards.

We denounce that civil society has been forced to put itself at physical risk to denounce the environmental contamination caused by the mining megaproject, including the processing plant, which affects more than 70,000 people in the region, because the State of Honduras has denied its responsibility to guarantee that the Carlos Escaleras National Park and its water sources and forests are not contaminated, but, even so, we have complied on repeated occasions, and we will continue with our citizen demands until Inversiones Ecotek and all the companies that make up the mining megaproject leave our territories.

The Secretary of Natural Resources is asking us for proof of the mining damage. We have plenty of proof. The government lacks the will to comply with its national and international environmental and human rights obligations to put an immediate end to the mining megaproject in the Botaderos Mountain "Carlos Escaleras" National Park.

Given on February 6, 2023 at the Presidential House of Honduras.

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