Honduran Mining Law Passed and Ratified, but the Fight is Not Over
by Mining Watch Canada | Jan. 24, 2013:
OTTAWA – On Wednesday, January 23, 2013, the Honduran Congress quickly passed and ratified a new mining law that had been developed with support from the Canadian International Development Agency against the will of important sectors of Honduran society. The only step that remains is for the law to be published in the official Gazette, which could take place as early as next week. Once published, it will enter into effect and a moratorium on new mining concessions that been in place since 2006 will end. It is anticipated that this will be followed by an accelerated process to approve some 300 mining concessions, and that another 154 concessions that have already been approved will become active.
The following represent some of the most worrisome aspects of the law, as analyzed by the Honduran National Coalition of Environmental Networks:
- It leaves the door open to open-pit mining,
- Water sources that communities depend upon are left unprotected, except for those that have been declared and registered, which are a minority. This puts at grave risk the survival and economic sustenance of peasant farmer communities,
- Mining is not prohibited in populated areas, which will continue to permit forced expropriation and the destruction and displacement of entire communities,
- The consultation process described in the law theoretically allows communities to say no to mining, but only after the exploration concession has already been granted and after there is a contract established with mining companies. This means that community voices will not be heard because the state of Honduras will be bound by Free Trade Agreements that it has signed – such as the forthcoming agreement with Canada – that give transnational companies access to international tribunals in order to protect their investments,
- It does not include a civil society proposal to incorporate a schedule of environmental crimes such that the Public Ministry could initiate criminal proceedings against those responsible when these occur, sanctions will only be of an administrative nature,
- The law denies access to information about technical and financial aspects of projects and companies involved.
This is true disaster capitalism in which the Canadian government has played an entirely self-interested role.
In 2009, Honduran civil society had achieved a proposed mining law that had it passed would have incorporated their proposals. But this was shoved aside following the June 2009 military-backed coup of then President Mel Zelaya and never debated. In the wake of this rupture in the democratic life of Honduras, a country that has since become the murder capital of the world with frequent attacks and threats against human rights advocates, journalists and activists, the Canadian Embassy, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and CIDA have all gotten involved in lobbying for and providing assistance toward a law that would be satisfactory to Canadian industry, such as the one that passed yesterday.
The fight is not over for communities and organizations in Honduras. A November 2011 survey found some 91% of Hondurans opposed to open-pit mining and near unanimity in support of the environmental movement for a more just mining framework. In other words,
despite the repressive environment, we can anticipate that communities will continue to organize to defend their lands and waters supplies. Also, the National Coalition of Environmental Networks plans to fight this Canadian-backed law through the Honduran courts and will once again be calling for international solidarity in order to urge the court to proceed fairly and expeditiously with their case.
In Canada, it’s vital that this attempt on the well-being of communities – in which our government agencies are complicit – not go unnoticed and that the work to build solidarity with affected communities and their allies continue.
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