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1998-2013 Honduran Mining Laws

In 1998, the Honduran Government passed the General Mining Law (“1998 Mining Law”). The law was passed in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch – a natural disaster that caused significant damage throughout the country – and enabled a new regulatory regime for mining in Honduras. Some critics point out that the legislative drafting and enactment process was swift, with only one debate in the National Congress (Middeldorp, 2016). Specific criticisms include concerns that the law “gave mining companies de facto ownership over the conceded territory, did not establish limits to the number of concessions, did not establish strict environmental controls [or] penalties, and […] allowed for the forced expropriation of communities” (Middeldorp, 2014). The passage of the 1998 Mining Law and the subsequent arrival of Canadian-owned open pit mining operations that used cyanide-leaching technologies led to the creation of the anti-mining movement (Middeldorp, 2016).

In 2006, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice declared 13 of the 1998 Mining Law’s provisions unconstitutional, including a “provision giving mining companies unlimited access to water” (MiningWatch Canada, 2012). Prior to this ruling, President Manuel Zelaya (Liberal Party of Honduras, PLH) issued a decree declaring a moratorium on new metallic mining concessions, while civil society groups organized efforts to draft and pass a new mining law aimed at, among other things, banning open pit mining operations (See the Legal Actions entitled “2006-2013 Moratorium on Mining Concessions” and “2006-2009 Draft Mining Law Proposed by Civil Society Organizations” for more detail).

In 2013, the Honduran Government (led by President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, National Party of Honduras, PNH) enacted a new General Mining Law (the “2013 Mining Law”). This law revoked the 1998 Mining Law and lifted the above moratorium on new mining concessions. The drafting of the 2013 Mining Law involved input from experts assigned by the Canadian International Development Agency, and a socialization process ordered by President Lobo with representatives of both the mining and civil society sectors. These discussions failed to generate a consensus between different interest groups, environmental groups, and other organizations critical of mining, some of which abandoned the negotiations on the basis that, among other things, the proposed law did not include their principal demand – a prohibition on the use of cyanide and open pit mining (Middeldorp, 2016). 

Once passed, the Honduran National Coalition of Environmental Networks (CONROA) identified the following concerns regarding the 2013 Mining Law: failure to prohibit open pit mining; failure to adequately protect community water sources; fostering consultation processes that are only take place after exploration concessions have been granted; failure to include schedule of environmental crimes (as proposed by civil society groups); and denial of access to information about financial and technical aspects of the projects and related companies (MiningWatch Canada, 2013). A constitutional challenge to the 2013 Mining Law was ultimately launched, with the Constitutional Chamber declaring seven of 20 impugned articles unconstitutional in a decision released in June 2017 (see the Legal Action, entitled “2006-2017 Challenges to Honduran Mining Laws“, for more detail).

In 2019 and 2020, Congress approved reforms to the Mining Law to address the invalidation of articles by the 2017 Supreme Court ruling, and to make mining concessions more attractive for foreign investment by reducing the tax levy. Both reforms were criticised by Civil Society Organizations as reinforcing the Honduras’ dependence on the extractives model and weakening accountability of mining companies and environmental protections (Proceso hn, 2019, Criterio hn, 2020).

Type of Action / Tipo de Acción:
National Legislative Activities and Procedures
Legal Description / Descripción Legal:
General Mining Law, Decree No. 292-98 and published in the Official Gazzette No. 28, 785 on 6 February 1999; General Mining Law, Decree No. 238-2012 and published in the Official Gazette No. 33, 088 on 2 April 2013
Extractive Project / Proyecto extractivo:
Region / Región:
Central America
Country / País:
Natural Resource / Recurso natural:
Jurisdiction / Jurisdicción:
Honduran System
Category of Key Actors in Legal Action / Categoría de actores claves en la Acción Legal:
Grassroots Movements, Politicians and/or Political Parties, State Institutions
Key Legal Actors Involved / Actores jurídicos clave involucrados:
Civic Alliance for Democracy (ACD), Liberal Party of Honduras (PLH), National Coalition of Environmental Networks of Honduras (CONROA), National Congress, National Party of Honduras (PNH), President Manuel Zelaya, President Porfirio Lobo Sosa
Year Action Started / Año de inicio:
Year Action Ended / Año de finalización:
References / Referencias:

Aqui Abajo, “Threats Against Carlos Amador, Member of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee, Which has Opposed Goldcorp Gold Mining in Honduras Since 2000”, dated 29 April 2010, online:, accessed 4 July 2018.

Council on Hemispheric Affairs, “The Dangerous Path Toward Mining Law Reform in Honduras”, dated 18 December 2015, online:, accessed 2 July 2018., “Aprobados nuevos beneficios fiscales para empresas mineras en Congreso Nacional”, dated 15 October 2020, online:, accessed 10 December 2021.

MiningWatch Canada, “Canada’s Subsidies to the Mining Industry Don’t Stop at Aid: Political Support Betrays Government Claims of Corporate Social Responsibility”, dated June 2012, online:, accessed 18 September 2018.

MiningWatch Canada, “Honduran Mining Law Passed, Ratified, but the Fight is Not Over” (News Release), dated 24 January 2013, online:, accessed 2 July 2018.

National Coalition of Environmental Networks of Honduras (CONROA), “La Verdad y Las Medias Verdades en las “Socialización” de la Ley de Minería”, dated August 2012, online:, accessed 11 July 2018.

Nick Middeldorp, ‘In Honduras it is a Sin to Defend Life’: An Ethnography of the Discourses, Practices and Dangers of Opposition to Mining in Honduras, Wageningen University & Research, dated June 2014, online:, accessed 7 October 2020.

Nick Middeldorp, “Minería, resistencia y repression en Honduras: entre la ley y la impunidad”, Cuadernos de Anthropología, Vol. 26. Núm. 2 (2016), online:, accessed 2 July 2018.

Mines and Communities (MAC), “Organizaciones sociales opinan sobre propuesta de nueva ley minera en Honduras”, dated 6 March 2012, online:, accessed 4 July 2018.

Proceso hn, “CN aprobó reformas por adición de varios artículos a la Ley de General de Minería”, dated 26 septiembre 2019, online:, accessed 10 December 2021.

Resumen Latinoamericano, Honduras, “Reformas a la Ley minera sirven para fomentar negocio extractivista, afirman analistas”, dated 20 October 2020, online, accessed 10 December 2021.