PBI-Honduras visits Guapinol River impacted by the Los Pinares open pit iron oxide mine
On January 31, the Peace Brigades International-Honduras Project tweeted: “Recently, the community of #Guapinol showed us the importance of the river in the lives of the people who live in the surroundings. We express concern about the constant criminalization of environmental defenders in #Honduras.”
In June 2021, PBI-Honduras also accompanied a media conference, convened by the Municipal Committee of Tocoa with representation from Guapinol and San Pedro communities, that presented a technical report on the impact of the Los Pinares mine.
At that time, Criterio reported:
“Members of the Municipal Committee for the Defense of the Commons and Public Goods presented on [June 29] to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment a technical environmental report on the pollution that affects the Guapinol and San Pedro rivers, product of the exploration and mining exploitation of Inversiones Los Pinares in the Montaña de Botaderos National Park.
The presentation was made in Tegucigalpa by environmental defender Carlos Leonel George and engineer Limber Velásquez, who said that they hope that through this technical report, the Secretariat will cancel the environmental license granted to Inversiones Los Pinares, owned by the business couple, Lenir Pérez and Ana Facussé, son-in-law and daughter, respectively, of the late businessman Miguel Facussé Barjum.
In the engineer’s opinion, the environmental licence should not have been granted or at least should be cancelled now that the environmental consequences of the concession to the mining company are known.
The author of the technical report presented to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment explained that currently the road section that serves as access to the mine area is contaminating with sediments the Guapinol and San Pedro rivers, both tributaries of the Aguán River that flows into the Atlantic coast.
Velásquez [also] warned that more than 35 micro-basins would be directly affected by mining.”
Criminalization of water defenders
The Guardian has reported: “In March 2018, shortly after the company started widening a road within the national park, the tap water in Guapinol turned chocolate brown and thick with muddy sediment. Residents were forced to buy bottled water to drink, cook and even bathe after children began suffering from diarrhea, while some adults reported skin complaints.”
The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) adds: “In August 2018, when development of the mine began to contaminate the drinking water for 14 nearby communities, residents of Guapinol erected a ‘Camp in Defense of Water and Life’.”
Juana Zúñiga says: “They ruined our river … We couldn’t use water for anything, that’s why we organized, that’s our struggle.”
The camp was in place for 90 days. The UUSC notes: “In October 2018, 1,500 Honduran military and police officers violently attacked and evicted the camp.”
Eight water defenders are now on trial. One of them has been held since December 8, 2018, while seven have been incarcerated since September 1, 2019.
After a long delay, their trial began on December 1-2, 2021, resumed on December 9, but then adjourned without ruling on a habeas corpus application filed on December 14. The trial resumed on January 13, 2021. It is reportedly drawing to a close.
We continue to follow this situation closely.
PBI-Honduras accompanying the trial of the Guapinol 8 on January 27, 2021.