This article is mainly based on material made available by London Mining Network.

Mine de-watering pumping test at La India. Photo: CondorGold

According to ACAFREMIN, the new regional alliance against metal mining in Central America, Condor Gold has dropped charges against seven community members from Santa Cruz de la India, Leon, Nicaragua. If convicted, the seven faced up to five years in jail.

Condor Gold Plc is a UK based, AIM-listed exploration company ‘focused on proving a large commercial reserve on its 100% owned La India Project in Nicaragua’. The company owns 10 contiguous concessions covering 98% of the historic area of the La India gold mining district. Six of these were granted by the Nicaraguan government between 2006 and 2015; one was a swap with Canadian miner B2Gold and the others were bought privately from other companies.

The old mine, mostly owned by Canadian mining company Noranda Inc, was worked between 1938 and 1956, yielding 576,000oz of gold. At the height of production in 1953, mine records show an annual production of 41,861 oz gold at a grade of 0.3442 oz/ton (11.8 g/t) and 39,282 oz silver (equivalent to 11.0 g/t).

2. Artisanal miner’s workings San Lucas, La India District. Photo: CondorGold

Since it closed in 1956, local artesanal miners have continued to extract small amounts of gold from pits scattered throughout the district. A 2004 report in Mines and Communities found nearly 400 children working in these pits.

Between 1986 and 1990, a Soviet-Nicaraguan collaboration surveyed the district, identifying a resource of 2.35M oz of gold, about four times the historic total. Condor’s own estimates are of 2.32M oz of gold, and 2.66M oz of silver, within a 9km radius.

Condor owns concessions with a further 1m oz of gold in El Salvador, now embargoed under that country’s ban on metal mining.

British billionaire investor Jim Mellon (official photo)

In the UK, Condor’s major shareholders include billionaire businessman, investment guru and brexiteer Bill Mellon, who told Money Investor: “I am absolutely convinced that gold and silver are necessary in the current environment. As regular readers know, the precious metals “complex”, as it is known, is normally only a small part of my portfolio, more for insurance and diversification.”

Another significant investor is Canadian entrepreneur Ross Beaty, who told Tekoa da Silva, in a 2015 interview for Sprott Global:

“… quite frankly, my salvation here, my refuge, is in precious metals. It’s in gold and silver.

So I’m very bullish on gold right now. I’m particularly bullish watching what’s happening to the gold price relative to the US dollar…. I’m also very much of the view that investors today should have a refuge from all these storms that are blowing up all over the place by having some significant amount of gold in their portfolios.

So I’m putting a lot in right now as an investor. I don’t buy the physical metal. I buy companies because even if I’m wrong, even if gold doesn’t go up, a well-run company will create wealth and that will be a successful outcome for me as an investor.”

The seven accused were supporters of a movement active since 2011 in Santa Cruz del Peñon and the surrounding area, which had denounced the mining company’s intimidation campaign to force local families to concede their property titles to give way to exploration activities.

They blamed the company for generating divisions in the community, spreading false information about the benefits of mining, working in complicity with local authorities to deny access to public services such as electricity, water, and credit to those who oppose the mine, and for promoting the criminalization of public protest.
In June an open letter was published, signed by local organisations and supportive Nicaraguan and foreign NGOs, called on Condor Gold to withdraw charges against the seven community members.

The letter states: “According to the company’s allegations, the leaders in question destroyed company property during a protest in the community of Santa Cruz de la India on May 27th. However, members of Santa Cruz de la India Communal Movement, a group that has emerged as the main local opposition to Condor Gold ́s La India mining project, argue that employees of the company were trespassing on community owned land that was illegally granted for exploration. Community members also expressed concerns about the risks the eventual excavations would pose for families living in the surrounding area.”

The letter also called on the Company to take measures to “address the damage already done to local public infrastructure” and to desist from its plans to exploit La India mine.

A press release issued by Condor Gold claims that charges were withdrawn as a result of negotiations with local community leaders, but the National Environmentalist Movement against Mining denies the claim.

“We would like to state that the withdrawal of the charges by the company had nothing to do with negotiations or extra-judicial mediation as the company claims” reads a statement issued by the organization.

Community members of Santa Cruz de la India are convinced that their victory is the result of months of organising picket lines, school strikes, national mobilisations and international actions against the company.

“What these actions from the company have done is to unify and strengthen our community even more, and we demonstrated this many times as we marched to the court with support from many people from different parts of the country who came to show solidarity with us… eventually, both the company and the government realised they were acting illegally” says Olman Salazar, one of the leaders charged by the company.

Drill hole surveying, La India District. Photo: CondorGold

This legal victory that has forced the company to scale back its campaign of harassment against community members is a very significant first victory, but the fight is far from over.  The Santa Cruz de la India communal movement has a laid out a set of demands from the company and the Nicaraguan government that are yet to be met. As the Central American Alliance against mining we are committed to continue to support the community Of Santa Cruz de la India in this struggle to Condor Gold out of their territory.

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