Saturday, July 14, 2007

MINING

This coming Tuesday, July 17, there will be a series of public demonstrations in Honduras in support of a change in the mining laws in Honduras. A regional popular organization, Alianza Cívica por la Democracía – the Civic Alliance for Democracy, is spearheading this public mobilization.

The bishop of Santa Rosa de Copán, Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos, has been in the forefront of this struggle, especially since last July. He is urging all the parishes of the diocese to support the current demonstration. He and others want an entirely new law, not just some changes, but many Honduran congressional leaders do not support such a change.

The current law allows open pit mining of gold, silver, lead, and zinc. A July 2001 report of Mining Watch Canada detailed some aspects of the situation:
“In 1996 and 1997 alone, the Honduran government licensed mining concessions totalling 21,000 square miles — more than 30% of Honduras’ territory — to foreign companies, mainly from the United States, Canada and Australia. Then in December 1998, just weeks after Hurricane Mitch ravaged much of the country, a new mining law was passed — written by the mining association (ANAMINH), primarily made up of US and Canadian companies. The new mining law offers companies lifelong concessions, low taxes, unlimited access to water, legal rights to expropriate campesino (peasant farmers) and indigenous lands, and few environmental restrictions on their operations. In December 2000, the IMF pressured Honduras to reduce taxes even further, with the elimination of the export tax on mining products. With land use fees as low as $1500 a year for a large mine, and a nominal 1% municipal tax, Honduras has created an ideal tributary environment for foreign companies. Several of the mines now entering production are planned to produce more than $30 million worth of gold annually.”
The issues are many and some are quite complicated. But they include environmental contamination, displacement of peoples from their lands for the mines, the failure of the lands to benefit the people of Honduras.

A few years ago one mine at San Andrés Minas, Copán, released cyanide into the Lara River which is a source of water for much of the western region of Honduras. Tests of the water in Santa Rosa de Copán revealed traces of cyanide and lead.

A major concern is that the wealth is going out of the country to enrich some international corporation. As I see it, in a country as poor as Honduras this is criminal.

1 comment:

Curujines said...

John,
great to read you are well and active. we keep you in our prayers. keep writing and sharing this experience as time allows you... it is great to read. Goo dluck in the protests:
el pueblo unido
jamas sera vencido!
abrazo,
Valentin