US Treasury Sanctions Nicaraguan State Mining Company for Role in Rights Abuses
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June 22, 2022, 7:00 AM PT
Oakland, CA — On June 17, 2022, the US Treasury announced sanctions against ENIMINAS, the state-owned Nicaraguan Mining Company, which was created in 2017 to manage the country’s burgeoning mining sector. Ruy Delgado López, the long-time ENIMINAS executive and president of its board of directors, was also sanctioned. The sanctions follow the Oakland Institute’s research into the involvement of the gold mining sector — including ENIMINAS — in the violent theft of Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples’ lands on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.
According to the US Treasury, “in 2021, gold exports from Nicaragua to the United States increased by thirty percent, totaling over $744 million. These exports accounted for seventy nine percent of all Nicaraguan gold exports during the year.” The Treasury Department cited the role of gold in financing government repression in Nicaragua and the role of ENIMINAS in “funneling profits to private sector partners and kickbacks to regime insiders.” Private companies are required by law to enter joint ventures with ENIMINAS whenever they seek concessions in Nicaraguan mining reserves. Two opaque state funds under ENIMINAS control also receive a cut of state revenues from mining activities.
The Nicaraguan government has advertised that 7.1 million hectares of land, or roughly 60 percent of national territory is available for mining concessions, and foreign mining companies have eagerly sought to take advantage. Most notably, Canada’s Calibre Mining Corporation has sought some 46 concessions totaling 12.8 percent of Nicaragua’s landmass in a strategic partnership with the notorious Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto. Many of these concessions, including several that have already been granted, cover vast portions of Indigenous territories in the Northern Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region. Despite the extensive Indigenous rights protections that have been incorporated into Nicaraguan law, the state has issued these concessions without obtaining the required free, prior, and informed consent of the locals. ENIMINAS provides the financial incentive to the Nicaraguan government to disregard Indigenous peoples’ rights in order to boost the country’s mining bonanza.
Since 2015, settlers have killed more than five dozen Indigenous people and displaced thousands on the Caribbean coast. Many of these are linked to gold mining, such as the 2020 assassination of Mayangna leader Nacilio Macario and a 2021 attack on Miskitu and Mayangna people at Kiwakumbaih that left at least 11 dead. The forced displacement of the Miskitu community of Murubila in 2015 and the 15 families in Rosita in 2021 were also linked to gold mining.
“These sanctions may start to unravel the web of financial incentives for the Nicaraguan government to issue mining concessions and support mining by non-Indigenous colonos in Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples’ territories without their consent, which contravenes both Nicaraguan law and international norms,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “The Institute’s research shows that Western corporations such as Calibre Mining seek these illicit concessions and buy ore from small-scale miners like those responsible for the violence. We call on the United States and Canadian governments to take all possible actions to prevent companies registered within their borders from investing in violence and theft against Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples in Nicaragua,” she concluded.
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