The Daniel Ortega-Rosario Murillo regime handed out Chinese company Zhong Fu Development two mining concessions to exploit some 15,400 hectares in Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean coast, negatively impacting the environment and indigenous communities, the alliance of Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples of Nicaragua (INANA-AIP) indicated in a statement.
The indigenous group denounced the concession handover and the increase in extraction activities in the Moskitia Nicaraguan region. It also identified a 14,000 hectare mining concession in the area of Miramar hill, which supplies drinking water to the Sahsa community. The water is now contaminated by chemicals from the industry. There is also another concession of 1,400 hectares in Llano Sur, under the same circumstances.
“China’s objective is to obtain resources from poor countries, to create a dynamic in which knowledge-based economies are forced to acquire materials at higher prices,” Eliseo Núñez, a former Nicaraguan opposition lawmaker exiled in Costa Rica, told Diálogo on August 25. “This strategy allows it to compensate for the disadvantage it faces in terms of knowledge and technology.”
INANA-AIP affirmed that the Chinese exploration projects, assigned on July 26, did not consult with the communities that inhabit these territories and denounced that these projects “could lead to more violence, colonization, and genocide in the Moskitia regions.”
The danger of the advance of mining exploitation lies in the fact that it threatens the existence of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples. This is evident in the activities imposed on these groups and in the use of various forms of violence to persecute them and expel them from their lands if they oppose, INANA-AIP indicated.
Since 2020, Chinese profiteers have been observed in the gold mining sector in Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. In addition to Zhong Fu Development, Chinese firms Santa Rita Mining Company SA has 33,000 hectares in Rosita, and HYTS Resource Developments operates in Rio San Juan, Peruvian news site Expediente Público reported on August 15.
“In the context of a global strategy, these mining concessions in Nicaragua’s Atlantic region align with the trend of acquiring natural resources,” Núñez said. “China employs the philosophy of the Chinese [board] game Go, capturing seemingly insignificant elements whose final sum limits the mobility of the knowledge-centered economy.”
According to Expediente Público, the arrival of Chinese companies, known for questionable labor and environmental practices, raises concern among community leaders. This concern arises in a region where the regime favors the economic interests of new settlers displacing ancestral indigenous communities from their territories.
As part of this plan, they initially illegally occupy the lands to implement activities such as cattle ranching, timber smuggling, and mining. The regime then invests in infrastructure for the new settlers and participates in resource exploitation, reported Argentine news site Infobae.
The most common adverse environmental effects of Chinese projects, according to environmental platform Mongabay, include water and air pollution, violation of free and prior consultation with indigenous peoples, and repression of protesting communities.
“Apart from that there are disastrous impacts in terms of labor rights that accompany these investments,” Núñez said. “Their arrivals often result in conditions that are more akin to slavery than labor, which amounts to a flagrant violation of the human rights of indigenous communities.”
Zhong Fu’s presence affects 17 indigenous communities. In total, the Ortega-Murillo regime granted 299 mining concessions, 172 for metallic mining, and 127 for non-metallic mining, Infobae reported. The list of mining concessions in Nicaragua has not been updated since June 2021.
Despite U.S. sanctions imposed on Nicaragua’s gold exports since October 2022, the regime continues to increase it, Expediente Público reported. Gold is Nicaragua’s main export product.
“China already has a foot in Central America [along with Russia] where they will be able to weaponize activities such as narcotrafficking, money laundering, and migration to the United States,” Núñez concluded. “They can turn this region into a fentanyl warehouse and a terrorist haven.”