Mining Rush: Honduras Reverses Environmental Protections

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Honduran Mining Law Passed and Ratified, but the Fight is Not Over
Thursday, January 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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For more information:
Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada

Declaration from the National Coalition of Environmental Networks, January 22, 2013 (Original in Spanish follows):

New threat against the Honduran population - Mining law commodifies territory and people

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 ambiguous 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 left aside.
The clientelistic tone of other laws currently before the congress that would hand over territory and broaden the “rights” of mining companies remains consistent. 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.
Tegucigalpa, January 22, 2013

National Coalition of Environmental Networks

Centro Hondureño de Promoción para el Desarrollo Comunitario (CEHPPRODEC), Comité Regional Ambientalista del Valle de Siria, Instituto Hondureño de Derecho Ambiental (IHDAMO), Asociación de Organismos no Gubernamentales (ASONOG), Asociación Madre Tierra, FUNDAMBIENTE, Red Nacional de Comunidades Afectadas por la Minería, FORO AGRÍCOLA Mesa Nacional de Gestión de Riesgo, Movimiento Ambientalista Santa Barbarense (M.A.S.),Comité para la Defensa de la Flora y Fauna del Golfo de Fonseca( Coddeffagolf) Asociación Nacional para el Fomento de la Agricultura Ecológica (ANAFAE), Fundación Popol Nah Tun, Comités de Defensa de la Naturaleza de los Departamentos de Choluteca y Valle, Alianza Cívica por la Democracia (ACD), Red Ambientalista de los Municipios de Comayagua y La Paz (REDAMUCOP), Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguan (MUCA), Consejo de Cuenca del Municipio de Valle de Ángeles, Red de Sociedad Civil del municipio de Langue, Valle, Sociedad Civil del municipio de Aramecina, Valle, Sociedad Civil del Municipio de El Corpus, Choluteca, Sociedad Civil del Municipio de El Triunfo, Choluteca, Movimiento Indígena Lenca del Departamento de la Paz, Fundación SIMIENTE, Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y la Justicia (MADJ), Frailes Franciscanos de Honduras, Conferencia de Religiosos y Religiosas de Honduras (CONFEREH).
Nuevo atentado contra la población de Honduras

Ley de minería entrega territorio y población como mercancía
La Coalición Nacional de Redes Ambientales (CNRA) responsabiliza al Congreso Nacional, presidido por Juan Orlando Hernández, de confabularse con grupos económicos nacionales y transnacionales al aprobar una ley de minería que presenta fuertes indicios de inconstitucionalidad e irrespeta la vida humana y los bienes naturales. Tal parece que esta acción refuerza la percepción ciudadana de que “los diputados están incurriendo en un nuevo delito de traición a la patria”.
La ley de minería aprobada, presenta un texto hábilmente elaborado para engañar a diputados indecisos y al pueblo en general. Es así como, con lenguaje ambiguo y con muchos eufemismos, se mantiene la minería a Cielo Abierto sin mencionar tal método de explotación minero pero dejándolo implícito.
Esta ley aparenta respetar la consulta ciudadana pero al final la convierte en un simple trámite que sepulta las ansias y el derecho de participación efectiva de la población. En suma, se olvida de la toma de decisiones soberana del pueblo.
Continúa apareciendo la tónica entreguista de otras leyes en discusión al regalar el territorio y ampliar “derechos” a las compañías mineras. Estas podrán vender, transferir, hipotecar o hacer lo que mejor les convenga con la concesión y los recursos minerales que son propiedad del pueblo hondureño. Adicionalmente se otorgan las concesiones sin límite de tiempo, es decir, a perpetuidad! Para lo cual se comprometen a pagar cantidades irrisorias a las municipalidades y al Estado mismo.
Por todo lo anterior, la CNRA, exige:
1. No publicar ni poner en vigencia la Ley de Minería mientras no se incorporen las demandas de la población, de sus organizaciones ambientales y de derechos humanos, mismas demandas que se reiteraron en las jornadas de consulta efectuadas en el 2012.
2. No continuar engañando y/o utilizando al pueblo al hacerle creer que se le consulta cuando ya existen acuerdos entre las autoridades de gobierno y el sector privado nacional e internacional.
Llamamos al pueblo hondureño y a sus organizaciones a:
1. Defender por sus propios medios sus territorios y sus vidas frente a este nuevo atentado
2. Presionar oportunamente, para que la Corte Suprema de Justicia declare la inconstitucionalidad de esta ley en función de los recursos legales que desde la Coalición Nacional estaremos impulsando amparados en la Constitución de la República y demás leyes del país.

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