MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Nicaragua: Rancho Grande says 'no' to gold mining

Published by MAC on 2013-04-01
Source: Nicaragua Dispatch

Rancho Grande says 'no' to gold mining

Another rural community protests B2Gold's mining efforts in Nicaragua

Frank Garcia

The Nicaragua Dispatch

24 March 2013

RANCHO GRANDE, Matagalpa - The grassroots pushback against open-pit gold mining in Nicaragua has spread to the community of Rancho Grande, where hundreds of local campesino residents last Thursday flooded the streets in a dust-cloud protest march against Canadian mining company B2Gold.

Thousands of residents of Rancho Grande march against B2Gold in Matagalpa, Nicaragua
Thousands of residents of Rancho Grande march against
B2Gold, Nicaragua. Photo: Frank Garcia, Nicaragua Dispatch

Some 5,000 residents of this rural mountain town of in the department Matagalpa marched in defense of their property, patrimony and Mother Nature. The residents of Rancho Grande are concerned that their abundant natural resources and the wellbeing of their community would be put in jeopardy by B2Gold's plans to exploit the "El Pavón" open-pit gold mine, which would extract wealth from their territory and could leave behind an environmental mess for later generations to reckon with. The proposed mine sits near the source of the Yaoska River, some 220 kilometers northeast of Managua.

The community's rejection of the mining concession is supported by local religious and political leaders. On March 5, the Diocese of Matagalpa emitted a declaration challenging the "pseudo-development" promised by the Canadian mining company. "There is no point of equilibrium between the profits of a few and the losses of the majority," church leaders said.

The Catholic Church in Matagalpa is urging the Sandinista Government to not sell any mining permits in the municipality of Rancho Grande or the rest of the territory covered by the Matagalpa diocese.

"Just as we opposed the Costa Rican highway paralleling the San Juan River, all Nicaraguans need to be coherent and oppose mining, because just like the highway, it will destroy the lives and environment," the local church leaders said in their declaration.

The newly elected municipal government of Rancho Grande is also against the mining project.

"Something that we have to clarify to the population is that the workers of this company are saying they already have permits from the municipality and the national government, but we haven't issued any permits. If the population says it doesn't want mines here, then we won't have mines in Rancho Grande," says Mayor María Isabel González.

The mayor qualified last week's march against the mining company as a success and promised that more community demonstrations will come.

The March 21 protest was organized by a local movement called "Guardians of Yaoska," which is comprised of environmentalists, community groups, and local religious and political leaders. The march in Rancho Grande follows a similar protest against B2Gold last February in Santo Domingo, Chontales where the Sandinista government sent in their riot police to crack skulls, arrest rabble-rousers and defend the interests of the transnational mining company.

But Rancho Grande has a longer tradition of protesting mining activity in their territory. In 2010, the Municipal Council of Rancho Grande rejected a similar request by the Coexsa mining company to exploit a 1,711 hectare area in the mountains near the sources of the rivers Babaska, Manceras, El Chanco and Yaoksa. Then, in 2012, the local government also denied another mining company, Glencairn S.A., of exploiting 48,604 hectare area bordering the rivers Bijao, Kiwaska, Tuma, Bilampí and Caño Negro.

B2Gold, meanwhile, says they will open the "El Pavón" mine only if they are wanted by the community. In statements to La Prensa, representatives of the Canadian mining company said they are in the phase of explaining the economic and social benefits of the mining operation to the local community of Rancho Grande, but won't proceed further if the majority of the population doesn't want them there.

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