McGill Research Group Investigating
Canadian Mining in Latin America

San Andres, Honduras

Key Data

Company:Yamana Gold, Aura Minerals Operational status:production Materials extracted:gold Type of mine:open pit Main issues:water, inadequate remediation


Like many of the mines in Central America, the San Andres mine has been in operation since the colonial era, but only intensely exploited since the 1970s. In the recent past, the resistance to the mine escalated under the ownership of Greenstone Resources Limited (1994-2000) and then Minerales de Occidente SA (MINOSA) (2000-2009), operated by RNC Gold Inc. Allegations of harassment and violence against anti-mining activists and journalists have been publicized by a wide range of Honduran NGOs, including Alianza Cívica por la Democracia (ACD) y el Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras [1]. There are several clear themes running through the conflict: water contamination, displacement, and repression of the anti-mining movement. In June 2006 and March of 2009 large-scale contamination of the Lara River led to the death of a significant portion of the fish population, with obvious repercussions for local livelihoods and food security [2] [3] . For denouncing the water contamination, journalist German Antonio Rivas received death threats and was finally assassinated in February 2003 [4].

The second aspect of the conflict, involving displacement of people from their land, had its beginning in 1998 when the mine was operated by Greenstone Resources Limited. Over 120 families from the community of San Andres Minas agreed to sell their land to the company in exchange for land titles elsewhere and a school, church, and community center to be built with company money [5]. In the aftermath of Greenstone’s declaration of bankruptcy, the land titles that belonged to the people of San Andres Minas were mortgaged, leaving the community in legal limbo. There has also been a fierce resistance to company efforts to use the land now occupied by the Azacualpa community cemetery for mining operations [6].

While there have been no legal rulings attributing the violence and intimidation against anti-mining activists to the Canadian companies that have owned the mine, popular belief ultimately holds the companies responsible. At the root of this is the belief by anti-mining activists that MINOSA intentionally acted to divide the community in order to ensure that the company could more effectively use its influence to control the local governing structures [7]. The influence of the company extends to the police force, who are responsible for the arbitrary arrest of forty people from the community of Azacualpa associated with the anti-mining movement in the area [8].

It is still unclear how community-company relations have changed now that the mine is owned and operated by Aura Minerales. There have been no reports of protests or large-scale contamination since Aura acquired the mine in 2009.


Additional Reading:

Moreno, R. (2010). Technical Report: Resources and Reserves on the San Andres Mine in the Municipality of La Union, Department of Copan, Honduras: Aura Minerals Inc. http://www.auraminerals.com/Theme/Aura/files/Aura_SA_MCB_Technical_Report_43101_Dec_2010_SEDAR.pdf

Latina, O. d. C. M. d. A. (2008, 23.09.2008). Denuncia contra la empresa Minerales de Occidente MINOSA. Retrieved from http://www.conflictosmineros.net/contenidos/17-honduras/4525;

Timeline of Key Events