Mining company Plantel Los Angeles, continues in limbo in Chontales

Mining company Plantel Los Angeles, continues in limbo in Chontales

At the end of June, when the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) informed the management of the Plantel Los Angeles mining company that was withdrawing the concession to operatethe employees were waiting for the management to summon them to explain what was happening, and most importantly: if they would continue to have a job or not.

“We learned of this communication from the Ministry, and we waited for the call, but nothing happened, so we continued working. Later, when we learned that Mr. [Randall] Martin, [copropietario de la empresa minera]sent a letter saying that he would come to Nicaragua to try to fix the problem, and promised to pay the salaries of the staff, we feel calmer, and we continue to work normally, to this day”, he told CONFIDENTIAL an employee who asked to be called ‘Luis’.

“To this day,” the company continues to carry out its work of buying material and processing it to extract gold, especially after “their concession was restored,” an industry source confirmed succinctly. Although it is not known if this is the result of the efforts that its main owner and CEO, J Randall Martin, made in Nicaragua during the week of July 4 to 9, as he himself announced in a letter, CONFIDENTIAL He learned of documents that indicate the probable reason for the MEM to withdraw the concession to buy and process mineral, also known as ‘broza’.

On June 9, the manager of Plantel Los Ángeles, Alejandro Domíguez, sent a letter addressed to eight cooperatives that work with them, to inform them that three days before (June 6), the Ministry had given them six days -o that is, until the twelfth day- to “resolve this situation”, in reference to the fact that the company was buying -through the cooperatives- ore extracted from protected areas.

The origin of this situation dates back to -at least- March 2019, when directors of the mining cooperatives of La Libertad and Santo Domingo asked Plantel Los Angeles, that “the ore extracted by independent miners be brought to Plantel Los Angeles through of the cooperatives… however, they were not clear that what they wanted was to transfer and rack ore from the Reserve in Río San Juan”, details the letter from Domínguez, citing the document that was sent to them by the MEM.

By law, mining cannot be done in nature reserves or, in general, any protected area, so by not having a permit -and all artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), except two of them, do not have a permit- “All of this is illegal mining,” says Amaru Ruiz, president of the Fundación del Río.

The reason for prohibiting extraction in protected areas -in addition to preserving the environment- is that illegal mining “means child labor, exposure of workers to poor working conditions and occupational safety at extraction sites; mercury contamination in water, soil and air; effects on people’s health”, Ruiz listed.

Artisanal miners claim the MEM

Given the economic effects that stop processing material extracted from the San Juan River Reserve means for the cooperatives, the company decided to request that the Municipal Artisanal Mining Commission be established, “as a mechanism to solve and improve the problems it faces” that sector, for the benefit of all those involved in this process: concessionaires, miners, local authorities, central government, and the mining company.

Three days later, on June 12, artisanal miners from Río San Juan sent a letter to Salvador Mansell, Minister of Energy and Mines, in which they appealed to his “wisdom” to reach an agreement that would allow them to continue extracting material from protected areas. .

“In the spirit of a socially and economically viable solution, we support the initiatives of the cooperatives of La Libertad and Santo Domingo [y] We request that, as representatives of our sector, they be attended by you, in a formal meeting to [encontrar] a solution in which we all win”, say the miners of Río San Juan.

Although three representatives of the company – including its CEO, J. Randall Martin – offered to answer questions from CONFIDENTIALuntil the closing of this note, they did not provide any information.

After the closure announcement, which occurred on June 27, and Martin’s letter to the president of the National Assembly, deputy Gustavo Porras, on June 28, the cooperatives of the mining districts of La Libertad and Santo Domingo, which work with the Plantel, they also asked Mansell for a meeting.

The cooperative members of both mining districts of Chontales, indicate to Mansell in a letter dated July 26, 2022, that they feel “threatened in our fundamental right to freedom of organization”, also pointing out that “artisanal mining has been in the absolute abandonment”.

“The administrative decision to close operations at Plantel Los Angeles has brought us direct consequences,” because “a destabilizing environment was createdand if we do not take responsible actions that return us to normality, we inevitably run the risk of failure, which we are not willing to allow”, they indicate in their letter.

Finally, the Chontal cooperatives ask Mansell for a “work meeting with you, to overcome collective anguish and find beneficial solutions for all parties.”



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