Dominican Republic: Protests of Nickel & Gold Plans

On Nov. 11 Congressman Adriano Sánchez Roa, of the Dominican Republic’s ruling PLD Party, criticized the award of a license to Canadian mining firm Unigold, claiming it would threaten environmentally protected areas, particularly the Manolo Tavárez Justo National Park. 

The criticism comes at a time of increasing anti-mining protests. On Oct. 1, the La Vega provincial court ordered the suspension of Xstrata subsidiary, Xstrata Nickel Falcondo's Loma Miranda project and granted third-party access to the site. The project is opposed by locals and NGOs, including the Padre Rogelio Foundation, on environmental grounds and local landowners such as former Gov. Chestaro and Sen. Félix Nova. On Oct. 19, Xstrata confirmed it would challenge the judgment.

There have been protests outside the Loma Miranda site in La Vega and between September and November. Opponents of the project have demonstrated outside the presidential palace, foreign mining companies' offices and the Canadian Embassy in Santo Domingo.

Protests against the Pueblo Viejo project have led to violence. Between Sept. 28 and Oct. 5, violence broke out at the mine and fires were set in streets of nearby Cotui. Twenty protestors were injured during confrontations with the police. The protests at Pueblo Viejo are primarily focused on demands for local spending and jobs for local residents.

The government has reiterated its commitment to mining development. A Nov. 12 statement from Environment Minister Bautista Rojas Gómez emphasized that future development was advantageous to the country. 

However, the protests have led the government to request an UN Development Program assessment of Loma Miranda before issuing further official statements. In 2010, an UN Development Program assessment of a cement plant project resulted in its cancellation. 

The strengthening of environmental groups, backed by foreign NGOs, means that mining firms are increasingly likely to be targeted with civil unrest and court action. This increases the risk of project delays, but also of license cancellation, particularly if demonstrations turn violent. 

Carlos Cardenas is deputy head of Latin America forecasting with Exclusive Analysis.

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