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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Honduras' Congress passed a law that ends a moratorium on mining permits on the condition that the villages affected by potential projects decide whether to back them.
The General Mining Law, signed late on Wednesday night, also raises a tax on free-on-board exports, to be paid by mining companies, from 1 to 2 percent.
An additional 1 percent tax will be levied to pay for scientific investigations and a mining watchdog, while another 1 percent tax will help fund Coalianza, an organization that supports public-private partnerships.
"We have an opportunity to start offering new mining permits so that industry can gain a foothold in Honduras, and the local villages will decide, in citizen meetings organized by town councils, whether they'll approve them or no," Fredy Espinoza, a congressman and member of the mining commission, told Reuters.
Various international mining companies already operate in the country, according to the National Metals Mining Association of Honduras, including offshoots of Belgium's Nyrstar and Canada's Aura Minerals.
Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who left office in 2009, signed the previous project moratorium after conflicts between locals and environmental groups.