MAC: Mines and Communities

Hondurans protest against new mining law

Published by MAC on 2013-01-28
Source: Statement, Reuters, Prensa Latina (2013-01-25)

Honduran Congress ends mining projects moratorium

A new Honduran Mining Law has been passed and ratified, but the fight is far from over. The Honduran Congress quickly passed and ratified the new mining law, which has been developed with support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) against the will of important sectors of Honduran society.

January 24 march against the proposed Mining and Hydrocarbons Law
24 January march against the proposed Mining
and Hydrocarbons Law. Source: Greg McCain, MKGC

At the time of writing the law still needed to be published in the official Gazette. 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 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.

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.

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.

Previous article on MAC: Most Hondurans oppose open-cast mining, says survey

[This editorial comment is based on a text by Jennifer Moore of MiningWatch Canada, who is also to be thanked for the translations from Spanish of original material below]

Honduran Congress ends mining projects moratorium

Reuters

24 January 2013

Tegucigalpa - 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.


Honduran Protest Against Unpopular Laws

Prensa Latina

24 January 2013

Tegucigalpa - Street demonstrations and sit-ins, reflect protest of many Hondurans today against unpopular laws passed by Congress and implemented by the Government.

Representatives of teachers, working class and Libre party are carrying out a rally to speak out against the chaos brought about by decisions of the authorities.

The leader of teachers, Jimmy Sorto, said the government suffers from schizophrenia because madness has made them privatize or bankrupt state enterprises, and then turn them over to private capital.

It has destroy the achievements and the rights of the people to replace the Labour Code with the Temporary Employment Law and suspend the Teachers' Statute affecting the teaching, he said.

Meanwhile, the labor leader, Eusebio Reyes, said the march is also against the policy of a state that has not generated more actions to solve the people's needs and maintains a high degree of uncertainty.

For its part, The National Coalition of Environmental and Social Networks of Honduras (CNRA), involving about 20 organizations, demanded the immediate suspension of the Mining Law, which it is described as submissive.

It seems that this action reinforces the public perception that MPs are committing a new offence of treason, stated the CNRA in a communiqué issued here.

That is why the organization demand the judges to proceed against President Porfirio Lobo Sosa and the 110 MPs, who had approved the decree to create those Special Development Arrangements.


Honduras ends mining moratorium, raises taxes

Reuters

25 January 2013

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS - 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.

The new bill, which received the backing of President Porfirio Lobo, will come into law once it is published in the official government newspaper, possibly within a month.

"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.

Gabino Carbajal, president of the National Metals Mining Association of Honduras, applauded the law and did not believe the caveat of giving locals a deciding say would be a problem.

"This law will encourage mining investment," he told Reuters. "The issue of requiring local approval is one that we think can be overcome with a well-informed population. Local people just want mines not to affect the water and the environment, and modern mining doesn't do that."

Aldo Santos, the head of the national mining development body DEFOMIN, said there had already been interest in the Honduran mining sector.

"We've received serious interest from roughly 10 mining companies who are keen on operating mines in Honduras, so we're expecting a great deal of investment in the coming years," he said, without naming the companies.

But environmental groups rejected the law, saying it threatened the countryside and water sources.

"This law will be a cause of more poverty for us and greater conflict in the countryside," said the Coalition of Environmental Networks' coordinator Pedro Landa.

Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who left office in 2009, signed the previous project moratorium in 2006 after conflicts between locals and environmental groups.

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.

Honduras mines gold, silver, zinc, lead, iron ore and antimony. Mining exports generated $206.5 million in 2011, according to the National Metals Mining Association of Honduras.


Declaration from the National Coalition of Environmental Networks

22 January 2013:

The National Coalition of Environmental Networks (CNRA by its initials in Spanish) holds the National Congress, presided over by Juan Orlando Hernández, responsible for colluding with national and transnational economic groups to approve a mining law that is highly unconstitutional and disrespectful of human life and nature. The passage of this law reinforces the perception of Honduran citizens that "the deputies have once again betrayed the country."

The approved mining law, has been elaborated in order to deceive undecided deputies and the public in general. As such, it uses very ambigious language and many euphemisms, for example leaving the door open to open-pit mining by not explicitly mentioning the methods of mineral production that can be used.

The law also appears to respect citizen consultation processes, but in the end turns this into a simple procedure to bury the worries and right to effective participation of the population. Overall, the sovereign decision making process of the people is forgotten.

The clientelistic tone of other laws currently before the congress that would hand over territory and broaden the "rights" of mining companies remains present. Companies can sell, transfer, mortage or do what they like with the mineral concession and minerals that are property of the Honduran people. Also, concessions are granted without a time limit, in other words, in perpetuity! For all of this, companies will pay miserable amounts to municipalities and the state.

As a result of the above, the CNRA demands:

1. That the Mining Law not be published as long as the demands of the population, environmental and human rights organizations are not incorporated, the same demands that were reiterated during the days of consultation in 2012.

2. That there be a halt to the deception, making people believe that consultation took place when there were already agreements between government authorities and the national and international private sector.

We call upon the Honduran people and organizations to:

1. Defend their territories and lives using their own means against this new threat

2. Exercise timely pressure so that the Supreme Court of Justice declare this law unconstitutional according to the legal measures that the CNRA will be bringing forward according to the Constitution of the Republic and other laws of the country.


Declaration: Honduran Mining Law Approved

Latin America Observatory of Mining Conflicts (OCMAL)

24 January 2013

The Latin America Observatory of Mining Conflicts, OCMAL by its initials in Spanish, makes the following declaration in response to the approval of the Honduran mining law on January 23, 2013:

1. The approval of the Honduran mining law constitutes a serious threat for affected communities, whose activities depend on water, which mining companies consume, deplete and contaminate, as well as for ecosystems and watersheds that are fundamental for life and community development.

2. The process of debate and approval of the law are far removed from basic practices of democracy and participation, especially considering the efforts of Honduran civil soceity to participate and provide their input into the law. Beyond the short-term objectives of transnational mining companies, those working companies' behalf and their national allies, such a law should be compatible with national interests and the public good.

3. This law constitutes an enormous setback for environmental and social protection in Honduras and is a reflection of the real political and economic powers that control the destiny of this country against the will and true interests of the majority of the inhabitants that seek sustainable development and equity for the whole population, especially the most vulnerable.

4. The commodification of territories, ecosystems, nature and lives of people will lead to social, environmental, cultural and moral degradation and more mining conflicts, which are ever more difficult to resolve given the pressure that transnational mining companies exert to continue their activities against the will of affected communities and social movements.

5. Transnational mining companies use diverse mechanisms, mostly illegitimate and unjust, such as international arbitration under Free Trade Agreements, to pressure governments to open up mining frontiers to unfettered extractive industry expansion without consideration for the will of the people and the interests of the country. This spirals into weakened rights, abuses, criminalization and persecution of social and environmental activists.

6. In Latin America, opposition to mining has grown as a result of the lack of respect for people's rights on the part of this industry, which destroys the foundation of people's subsistence and undermines the possibilities for the wellbeing of communities in their territories. Each new mining project is inevitably accompanied by conflict with communities in which governments align themselves with transnational companies.

7. From the perspective of social movements across Latin America, we see the need to build solidarity with those who are most at threat from this law, which denies communities their rights while transferring them to transnational companies in perpetuity.

8. We will follow this process following the approval of the mining law, ready to denounce each and every one of the actions that threaten the personal, collective, social, environmental, cultural, religious and economic security of the affected communities and populations of Honduras.

Given the above, and in the profound spirit of democracy and participation in defence of life, we call for all to unite in the defence of the rights of our Honduran brothers and sisters who are dealing with this grave threat in a context in which democracy is lacking and human rights are regularly violated.

OCMAL, January 2013.

Home | About Us | Companies | Countries | Minerals | Contact Us
© Mines and Communities 2013. Web site by Zippy Info