MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Canadian MP, Alexa McDonough, joins a Development and Peace fact finding mission to Honduras to inv

Published by MAC on 2007-09-06

Canadian MP, Alexa McDonough, joins a Development and Peace fact finding mission to Honduras to investigate Canadian mining operations

Canada-K media release - Montreal

6th September 2007

MPs from Canada and Britain are leaving on September 9th to investigate Canadian mining operations in the Central American country of Honduras. Alexa McDonough, MP for Halifax, is participating in the Member of Parliaments' Fact-Finding Mission on Mining Issues to Honduras. The main focus of the mission is to dialogue with stakeholders about the urgent need for a just and responsible mining law. The delegation will also be able to check first hand on the damage caused by this week's passage of Hurricane Felix through Honduras.

British MPs, Keith Hill, a former Parliamentary Private Secretary to Prime Minister Blair, and Stephen Pound, MP for Ealing, London, are also part of the mission.

The delegation, organized jointly with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace and UK sister agency the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) will be visiting Tegucigalpa and the Siria Valley region from September 9-13, 2007. "We are going to Honduras to lend our support to the civil society organizations, including Caritas Honduras, a Development and Peace partner," said Mary Durran, Advocacy and Research Officer of Development and Peace who is leading the Canadian delegation. "They are working hard to demand their government puts the interests of Hondurans first, before those of transnational mining companies".

Alexa McDonough, spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and International Development for the New Democratic Party said: "Honduran civil society groups have been working hard to improve the oversight of mining companies in their own country. But Canadians also need to hold their own extractive companies to account for operations in countries where communities may be at risk of exploitation, or where existing rules of corporate conduct are weak."

Honduran mining legislation is heavily weighted in favour of mining companies. The 1998 Mining Law, hastily approved after Hurricane Mitch devastated the region, allows mining anywhere in the country, regardless of whether it is in an ecologically protected area, a residential settlement, or is a destination of interest to tourists. The law gives local communities only 15 days to lodge any objection to any exploration concession, and it is otherwise generally very weak on environmental and social regulation. In addition, it permits free use of the local water supply, which often results in hardship and reduced access for local communities. Open pit mining operations can use as much as 60,000 gallons of water a day. Plus, mining companies are offered important tax concessions.

Currently, there are at least two subsidiaries of Canadian companies operating in Honduras. In the Siria Valley, site of the San Martin open pit gold mine that the MP delegation plans to visit, the local community continues to complain mining operations have all but dried up its water supply. Entre Mares, operator of the mine and a Goldcorp subsidiary, was recently fined the equivalent of US$55,000 by the Honduran government for arsenic and cyanide pollution of the area. Michael Casey, Executive Director of Development and Peace, said the situation regarding mining in Honduras illustrates why Canada should take steps to make Canadian mining, oil and gas companies operating overseas accountable to Ottawa.

"Poor communities in the Global South are highly vulnerable when transnational mining companies set up, and their operations are not adequately regulated by local governments."

"It must be recognised that until countries such as Honduras have the necessary regulatory frameworks in place, Ottawa has a role to play in ensuring Canadian companies behave responsibly overseas."

Development and Peace has called repeatedly on the Canadian government to make Canadian companies operating overseas accountable to Ottawa and to implement the March 2007 recommendations of the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), a multi-stakeholder consultation on CSR in the overseas operations of mining, oil and gas companies. The consensus recommendations, reached by the mining industry, academics and civil society organizations, include the establishment of a Canadian corporate social responsibility standard, and the appointment of an independent ombudsman to verify compliance. For 40 years, Development and Peace has worked directly with organizations made up of or representing the poor and marginalized in the Global South, and provided $500 million to 15,000 projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We are presently active with 200 partners in 28 countries in Africa, Asia, and in Latin America. In Canada, we are a democratic movement for international solidarity - educating the public about the root causes of poverty and mobilizing social action for change - with 13,000 members from coast to coast. Development and Peace is the official international development organization of the Catholic Church in Canada.

For Information Contact:

English Media Contact:

Wanda Potrykus

514 257-8710, ext. 365

wanda.potrykus@devp.org

French Media Contact:

Philippe Doucet

514 257-8710, ext. 400

philippe.doucet@devp.org

Office of Alexa McDonough, MP - Ottawa

Darren Brunk

613-995-4492

mcdona0@parl.gc.ca

Partners:

Tegucigalpa, Honduras (Spanish):

Pastoral Social, Caritas: (504) 228 9576

London: CAFOD Press Office:

Mel Beardon(44) (0) 20 7095 5541

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