The mining formalization will soon reach the seven communities in Macuelizo, Honduras, who formed the company Minas y Cuevas S.A. This community interest company is working on an improvement project with the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM).
Juan Ramos, president of the Minas y Cuevas S.A. Board of Directors, comments: “We are happy to have taken such an important step [obtaining the environmental license]. Several organizations have congratulated us and we want to thank everyone who is involved: thank you for the support and management from the authorities, ARM and the Lundin Foundation ”.
A story of triumph
In 2017, the miners of seven communities in Macuelizo, Santa Bárbara, Honduras, decided to take their future by the reins and create the Minas y Cuevas community interest company—the first in the artisanal and small-scale mining sector (ASM) in the country. Minas y Cuevas emerged as the Canadian company Geomaque surrendered concession to the original communities of the territory. As a result, these companies have been able to organize and exploit the ore, to perform much more responsible mining with greater community impact every day. Minas y Cuevas S.A. currently has 307 members.
These miners saw an opportunity to have their own company (which was already specialized in artisanal methods) transform its practices and turn into a technically well-run operation. This was accomplished by using equipment that allowed them to extract the mineral and a processing plant that beneficiates gold with a much smaller environmental footprint.
“None of these processes happened overnight. They were a sequence of acts from several parties where training and empowerment were made out of a molehill and resulted in responsible mining activity,” says Jairo Cárdenas, Mining Services Leader of the Alliance for Responsible Mining.
Minas y Cuevas S.A. decided to change the negative perception of ASM. Alongside the ARM Foundation, they have worked for over two years to improve their mining practices.
Soon, the miners who started extracting in the caves will be able to make formal sales aimed towards the German market.
“We are more committed to addressing and resolving environmental issues, the challenges of improving work techniques, and continuing to promote the project as the number one in Honduras in order to try to remain at the top and demonstrate that with effort and unity this goal can be achieved”, Ramos states.
In the month of August 2019, Minas y Cuevas S.A. received the environmental license granted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MiAmbiente). This has been a great achievement for Minas y Cuevas S.A., which now more than ever, is a benchmark for consistent effort towards improving responsible mining.
“I can see positive progress and I know that we are on a steady path towards [obtaining] our goal to export, meeting and surpassing all of the necessary legal measures,” explains Juan Ramos, president of the Minas y Cuevas S.A. Board of Directors.
In addition, the MiAmbiente in Honduras awarded the Lundin Foundation with the Green Virtue Award for its support in their natural resources and biodiversity management processes.
Community progress: connecting with the market through CRAFT, Passport to Formal MarketsCommunity progress: connecting with the market through CRAFT, Passport to Formal Markets
The goal of formalization and connection with the German market goes far beyond a simple sale. It assures the buyer that the company meets international due diligence requirements (through the CRAFT Code). This achievement will result in community progress since, in the long run, the company will invest not only in its contribution to organizational, labor, social and environmental aspects, but also in community projects – a commitment that is part of its statutes as a community interest company.
The support project from the Alliance for Responsible Mining funded by the Lundin Foundation has been under development since September 2017. It has received the articulate support from the Honduran Institute of Geology and Mines (INHGEOMIN), the Directorate of Environmental Evaluation and Control (DECA), the Mayor of the municipality of Macuelizo, the German refinery Heimerle + Meule, the Honduro-German Business Center, USAID, the Forest Conservation Institute, and other civil society organizations. All have contributed to the strengthening of good responsible mining practices and making Minas y Cuevas S.A. a national reference so that these experiences can be replicated.
This project has trained miners in the development of operating tunnels; contributed to the reduction of mercury use with a focus on its future disposal, trained miners on the importance of the mineral’s traceability process, and in occupational safety and health. In addition, the project has promoted a tree planting campaign in degraded areas, and has strengthened workers and their board of directors in organizational and internal governance aspects, as well as in communications.