By Gustavo Palencia
TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Honduran authorities ordered a subsidiary of Canada’s Aura Minerals Inc to suspend open-pit gold mining on Wednesday at an indigenous cemetery site, drawing fierce opposition from residents, whose lawyer confirmed the suspension in a statement.
The subsidiary, Minerales de Occidente Sociedad Anonima (MINOSA), has operated the San Andres mine since 2009 in the west of the country, where a gold vein extends to a cemetery where members of Maya Chorti ethnic groups are buried.
Residents have accused the miner of illegally exhuming bodies at the site and have blocked roads from the area on several occasions.
“MINOSA is ordered to immediately suspend all activities that are being carried out in the area of the Tajo La Buffa project,” the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment told the company in a document, which was seen by Reuters.
A lawyer representing residents, Pedro Mejia, told Reuters that MINOSA has exhumed corpses from the almost 200-year-old pantheon in a community around 191 kilometers northwest of Tegucigalpa, the capital.
The ministry also asked in the document that the company must prove it has legal authorization to exhume bodies before resuming activities at the site.
Aura Minerals and the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry did not immediately return requests for comment.
In 2021 the Central American nation raked in $293 million from mining, of which $163.8 million came from gold, according to data from the Honduras Central Bank.
(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Leslie Adler)