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2016-2020 Tocoa Municipal consultative assembly to declare “Territory Free of Mining”

According to Article 25 of the Honduran Law of Municipalities, the Municipal Council is empowered “to call a plebiscite of all municipal citizens to take decisions on issues that the Council considers of great importance. The result of the plebiscite is binding and should be made public” (See Legal Action entitled “2007- Municipalities Declare Territories Free of Mining”). 

The Municipal Committee in Defence of Common and Public Goods (CMDBCP) argued that Inversiones Los Pinares wanted an electoral referendum as they would be able to control the vote outcome in their favour through their influence over the National Electoral Commission and the municipal authorities, whereas a traditional consultative assembly (cabildo abierto) would prevent such manipulation and more clearly reflect the will of the community (ACAFREMIN 2020: 26). 

In April 2016, communities in Sector San Pedro opposed to the mining project in Tocoa, called for a cabildo abierto. This was initially granted by the mayor, but shortly before the Assembly was due to take place, the mayor abruptly cancelled it. A Sector San Pedro assembly was held in its place which reiterated the petition for a municipal level cabildo abierto to discuss the mining issue and approve a declaration of Tocoa as a “Territory Free of Mining”.

The municipal authorities repeatedly refused the CMDBCP petition to convene such a consultative assembly. In the face of this refusal and increasing evidence of mud deposits in the River Guapinol caused by project construction work, in June 2018 the CMDBCP and supporters held a protest outside the Tocoa Town Hall to demand a cabildo abierto. The mayor refused and informed them that even a declaration of “Territory Free of Mining” would not affect the existing mining project. 

Since 2018, the CMDBCP have filed criminal complaints against public municipal officials and national institutions for failing to carry out their legal duties to adequately consult the local population (CMDBCP and CCI, 2019). This failure to comply with the law has not had legal consequences either for the authorities or the company exploiting the mining concession. 

In all, six formal written petitions were made to the mayor to hold a cabildo abierto. This included in January 2019 a mass community meeting and a petition signed by 4,000 local people. Finally, on 29 November 2019, the Municipal Council allowed a cabildo abierto to take place involving the mass participation of community members. This resulted in the assembly voting in favour of the declaration of Tocoa Municipality as a Territory Free of Mining. However, at the time of writing (April 2021), the mayor has so far failed to send the official record of this vote (Acta #079-2019) to the mining authority, the Honduran Institute for Geology and Mining (INHGEOMIN) as required in the 2013 Mining Law. Furthermore, despite the community rejection of the mining project, the Municipal Council had renewed operating permits to the operating company.

Type of Action / Tipo de Acción:
Popular Consultations and/or Referendum
Legal Description / Descripción Legal:
Consultative assembly (cabildo abierto) and Declaration of Tocoa as "Territory Free of Mining",
Extractive Project / Proyecto extractivo:
Region / Región:
Central America
Country / País:
Natural Resource / Recurso natural:
Iron oxide
Jurisdiction / Jurisdicción:
Honduran System
Category of Key Actors in Legal Action / Categoría de actores claves en la Acción Legal:
Grassroots Movements, Municipal Institutions
Human Rights Violated/Claimed:
Right to consultation, Right to due process
Key Legal Actors Involved / Actores jurídicos clave involucrados:
Municipal Committee for the Defence of Common and Public Goods (CMDBCP), Mayor of Tocoa, Municipal Corporation of Tocoa
References / Referencias:

Diario Colón, “Pubic Statement by communities of Sector San Pedro, Tocoa”, dated 28 April 2016, online:, accessed 11 January 2021.

Diario Colón,”Declaratoria libre de minería prohíbe renovación de licencias a Inversiones Los Pinares”, dated 23 January 2020, online:, accessed 30 September 2020.

REMA, “Comunicado público del Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos de Tocoa”, dated 4 February 2020, online:, accessed 30 September 2020.

ACAFREMIN, “Guapinol Resiste: Orígenes del conflicto minero en el Bajo Aguán”, dated March 2020, online:, accessed 16 September 2020.

El Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos (CMDBCP) and the Coalición Contra la Impunidad (CCI), “Cronología de la Criminalización del Campamento Guapinol”, dated August 2019, online:, accessed 15 April 2020.