In its report, Nicaragua and its Perverse Gold, the River Foundation (Fundación del Río), a Nicaraguan nongovernmental organization that promotes environmental conservation, found a disproportionate increase in mining concessions under the Daniel Ortega-Rosario Murillo regime. This gold rush, the report indicates, undermines indigenous and Afro-descendant territories, as well as the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve in the southeast, and the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve in the northeast of the country.
“Since 2018, with the advance of mining [we’ve seen] increased conflict withindigenous and Afro-descendant communities on the northern Caribbean coast of the country, and we’ve beendenouncing the increase in murders and the displacement of communities,” Amaru Ruiz, president of the River Foundation, told Diálogo on July 29. “We’ve askedourselves what is behind these increases, and we found that one of the main factors is both artisanal and industrial mining.”
According to the report, mining concessions are mostly affecting four indigenous groups and cover 21 territories: seven Miskitu, six Mayangna, five Chorotegas, two multiethnic (Mayangna and Miskitu), and one Matagalpa.
In September 2021, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint program of the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organisation Against Torture, denounced the massacre of a group of Mayangna and Miskitu indigenous defenders in the Kiwakumbaih hill of the Bosawás Biosphere.
Based on interviews and data from Nicaragua’s Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM), the River Foundation found that land ceded to mining went from 139,852 hectares between 1990 and 2007, to 728,628 hectares from 2007 to 2022, an increase of more than 415 percent in 16 years under the Ortega-Murillo regime.
A review of permits, with the consent ofMEM, up to December 2021, shows 229 metallic mining concessions covering nearly 2.8 million hectares, representing 23 percent of the country’s land area. In addition, 114 licenses were authorized during the Ortega-Murillo regime.
“According to the analysis of the map of concessions within the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve designed by the MEM, 79 concessions were requested. Of those, 60 were granted and the 19 pending are in mining reserve areas administered at the discretion of MEM and state-ownedcompany ENIMINAS,” Ruiz added. “The total area of the 60 mining lots [authorized] represents 1.3 million hectares; that is, 66 percent of the entire Bosawás Reserve was handed over to mining concessions.”
In Bosawás, most of the residents belong to the Mayangna and Miskito indigenous communities. Although mining activities in the area began more than 25 years ago, the River Foundation points out that there has been an increase in concessions and illegal artisanal extraction starting in 2007.
The situation in the Río San Juan Biosphere Reserve and within the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, where the River Foundation documents more than 100 mining mills, adds to the mountain ofevidence.
Kenia Gutiérrez, former political prisoner and exiled member of the Council of the Rural Movement, which aims to bring back democracy to the country, told Florida-based newspaper Las Américas that the Ortega-Murillo regime has no interest in protecting the reserves. As proof, she points to the fire that consumed more than 3,000 hectares of forest in April 2018.
“What happened in the Indio Maíz Reserve was a product of negligence. The fire caused a lot of destruction because Ortega refused international help to mitigate the fire in the forest reserve,” Gutiérrez said. “By putting out the fire he would lose his main objective, which is to take over the reserve and be able to extract gold.”
Due to the use of “gold revenue to continue to oppress the people of Nicaragua,” the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, sanctioned ENIMINAS and the president of its board of directors Ruy Delgado López on June 17, 2022, blocking all property and interest in property in the United States or in control of U.S. persons.
Faced with this situation of accelerated environmental deterioration, product of the Ortega-Murillo gold rush, the River Foundation calls on Afro-descendant, peasant, and indigenous peoples to resist the aggressions imposed on them by the regime.the foundation is also requesting the support of the international community, environmental organizations, and Nicaraguan society, to denounceindiscriminate mining.