The Honduran government’s General Mining Law

The law provides for the following:

There is one form of legal title called a ‘mining concession’

Opposition to the granting of a mining concession must be made within 15 days of the publication of the application for a mining concession.

The rights of the mining concession holders include:

  • The free use of unproductive state lands
  • The right to ask permission to use third parties’ lands
  • Use of water both inside and outside of the area of the mining concession
  • To have legal petitions answered by the mining authority within a specified time or else they will be considered automatically approved
  • The right to petition the state to forcibly remove people from their land where their presence makes the use of the mining concession impossible.

The obligations of the concession holders are:

  • To produce at least $500 per hectare (ha) p.a. until the 8th year after the granting of the concession
  • To pay a territorial tax of between $0.25 per ha. p.a. for a new concession and $3 per ha. p.a. for concessions older than eight years.
  • To pay a penalty amount if minimum production is not reached.
  • To act subject to applicable safety, hygiene and environmental norms
  • To pay a tax on rent, sales (does not apply to exports) and a municipal tax (1 per cent of crude worth of sales)

Requirements for an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) include:

  • The Department for Evaluation and Environmental Monitoring (DECA) inspects an area where a company is proposing to mine and decides whether it should be a Category 1or a Category 2 mine
  • An EIS is not required for Category 1 mines
  • Category 2 mines are generally more environmentally sensitive or very large.
  • DECA provides the terms of reference for the EIS which is conducted by a company selected by the mining company from a government-approved list
  • The mining company pays for the EIS
  • After review of the EIS, a formal opinion is released and includes a list of measures to be complied with in order for the mining license to be granted
  • Inspection of mining operations is carried out by DECA and DEFOMIN (Department for the Promotion of Mining)
  • The law refers to the relocation of people and use of water according to the law, but there are no established laws that relate to these matters.

Making a denunciation of an environmental offence is relatively easy and accessible, although no legal assistance is available.

Enforcing constitutional rights is highly problematic as no judges specialize in constitutional law which is rarely if ever used by the community or civil society.


Major source
Centre for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) (2001) Report of a fact-finding mission (CESR-FFM) to Honduras in March/April 2001. New York. (Pp.1-10)


Please note that the current post-coup Honduran government – sometimes referred to as ‘coup-2’ –enacted a new mining law in January 2013 after revision by advisors funded by the Canadian government. Miriam Miranda, General Coordinator of OFRANEH, said “Right now [resources] are up for grabs and there’s an unparalleled exploitation of that by transnational and foreign capital. There’s no respect for international laws and international jurisprudence on the rights of indigenous peoples.”

The Valley of Despair

In April this year [2018] Rights Action published an article entitled ‘Goldcorp’s Valley of Death in Honduras’. The article was written by Martin Calix under the heading ‘The Valley of Despair’ for ContraCorriente, a digital media for journalism in Honduras producing in-depth articles on the reality of life in Honduras and in the region. The original article in Spanish can be accessed at: https://contracorriente.red/2017/10/05/el-valle-de-la-esperanza/

Martin Calix is a Honduran writer and author of several books such as ‘Partiendo a la locura’ (2011), ‘45’ (2013), ‘Lecciones para monstruos’ (2014) and ‘El año del armadillo’ (2016).

For Rights Action the article was translated by Lori Berenson.

The article relates to the legacy of Goldcorp’s mining in the Siria Valley, Honduras. For myself and ‘The Violence of Development’ website, the article brought back memories of a short interview I conducted in 2009 with Purificación Hernández of ASONOG about changes to the Law of Mining in Honduras at that time. This has relevance to the contamination caused by Goldcorp’s mining activities in the Siria Valley of Honduras which is the subject of the article, but for some reason it had not been uploaded onto the website at an earlier date. So, this month’s additions to the website include the Spanish version of the 2009 interview and the English translation – rather belatedly.

The much more recent article by Martin Calix follows. I am grateful to ContraCorriente for permission to reproduce the article here.


The Valley of Despair

By Martin Calix, Published 4 April 2018

Acid rain is not a myth. The inhabitants of the Valley of Syria, located about 120 kilometers from Tegucigalpa, know it well. The communities of Cedros, El Porvenir, and San Ignacio – three municipalities in the easternmost part of the Francisco Morazán department – were affected by the Canadian mining company Goldcorp Inc.’s open pit mining, another variant of the extractivist model. With the contamination of the waters of their rivers, the rain had to fall at some point, like a biblical prophecy.

The voraciousness of an extractivist model that is causing poverty and sickness for generations has led to an imminent moral collapse. The idea that mining companies are merciful and bring economic development is as easily demystified as a straight line of domino pieces must fall.

Cristi lives here. She is eighteen months old. She doesn’t know that she is sick, she doesn’t know that her hair is falling out. She is completely unaware that a future filled with uncertainty awaits her.

Aneli is Cristi’s mother. At 18 years of age, she is also losing her hair. Their health problems began at birth. Both were born ill, they were born with the brand of mining companies within their bodies, a brand that came to the valley at the beginning of 2000 and installed itself in the waters of the rivers and water sources that the valley communities have always used. They used the waters from these rivers well before Goldcorp Inc. arrived. They used the water during the eight years of mining exploitation at Goldcorp’s San Martin Mine, and they continue to use it during the seven years following the mine’s closure.

This closure was regarded as highly irregular by many human rights organisations such as OXFAM, the Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development (CEHPRODEC) and the Institute of Environmental Rights of Honduras – and by affected communities.

In 2002, the “Minerales Entre Mares de Honduras” mining company (subsidiary of Goldcorp Inc.) extracted 129,435 ounces of gold which meant the removal of approximately 2.5 million tons of earth in just 12 months. Multiply this by their 8 years of operations.

Taking into account that in 2002, the price of one ounce of gold was 310 dollars – it is presently more than $1,200 –, the company’s income in that year (2002) is estimated in 40.1 million dollars, with a payroll that covered fewer than 200 employees.

According to Honduras’s Mining Law, mining companies only pay 6% of their total exports in taxes, an amount that does not suffice to repair the environmental damages caused by this activity.

The Goldcorp mining company, which also has projects in Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Canada and the United States, exploited fourteen thousand one hundred hectares in the Siria Valley area, and although the company declared the closure of the San Martin mine in 2008, they have other concessions approved for exploitation for a total of four thousand four hundred hectares in the municipalities of Mapulaca, Lempira (1,700), Distrito Central, Francisco Morazán (1,400), and Marcovia, Choluteca (1,300), according to information revealed by the Observatory of Natural Assets and Human Rights.

–Have you taken her to the doctor?

–No, and she stops speaking. Aneli doesn’t talk much, just one syllable responses. She says “no” and returns to her self-absorbed state – perhaps provoked by the camera, or perhaps provoked by having to respond to an outsider – and her loving gaze focuses on her daughter’s face.

Oneida, the mother of Aneli and grandmother of Cristi, might be sick too. She doesn’t say so, there’s no need. Her children were born sick because she consumed the water that had been contaminated by heavy metals. She seems to be more interested in understanding my family origins, where my last name is from, since there are people in her home town, Pedernal, with the last name Cálix. She hides from my questions and the camera. I don’t try harder. I know that I have invaded the fragile daily lives for her and her family.

The women from the Siria valley were always invisible. They were never included in any statistical charts, none, except maybe for the electoral census. Women like Oneida, or Aneli, have been relegated to fulfilling their eternal roles: caring for children, doing housework, being devoted housewives who take care of their husbands. Their husbands and sons, campesinos transformed in workers-miners with the advent of mining in the area, became the fundamental building block of a company that would convert their communities into lands inhabited by desolation.

The exact same thing happened in San Ignacio. Other women would say the same thing. That the only things that multiplied in their lives were severe illnesses. In San Ignacio, the case of five women affected by contamination has been documented. Some of these women had been involved in cleaning and cooking for the company, and others doing the same in their homes. Five women who had to face surgery to have their uteruses removed. It was that or death.

–What did they tell you?

–Nothing. They just removed it.

Sulay is 52 years old. She has a deep gaze and an evasive smile. She is one of the five. Her body was contaminated by lead, arsenic and thallium she says, because she washes the clothes of her husband who used to work in the mine. Miguel, her husband, arrives on horseback. It’s a good day – he was able to ride “Clown”, a white horse that is a cross between a Spanish horse and a Peruvian mare – after having spent four months unable to do so, due to a problem in his spinal column. “Clown” dances, follows him wherever he goes, and pretends to sleep. The horse seems to enjoy this relationship as much as Miguel does, which I observe but fail to understand from afar.

Miguel is one of the thirty-five former Goldcorp Inc. (Entre Mares) workers who joined together in 2009, after the San Martin mine closed its operations. They came together to ask for compensation from the Honduran government for their health problems, since Goldcorp failed to give it to them. Now they are suffering illnesses that have deteriorated their bodies due to exposure to contamination during the gold and silver extraction process. Spinal columns with arthritis or displaced discs, and different types of cancer are part of the general clinical picture narrated by these former miners, who also report that others have already died.

It is hard to calculate the number of cases of women who had miscarriages due to contamination – said the former miners and their partners. They say they were seen by the Honduran Social Security Institution but they lost their files there. They were then seen in the Viera Clinics, where their records were changed, to make it seem that they were healthy. Other analyses were done by an Italian scientist they told me about, but they do not show me any medical results, as if it were enough to give an oral version in a country where we only believe what we see – and what we see is a deep abyss.

Miguel had operated heavy machinery, those huge dump-trucks and back loaders that you see in magazines, in National Geographic programmes and on the Internet. And he shows me one of his fellow workers in a photo he found through google on his cell phone. They laugh, and it’s not clear why they laugh. They don’t know it, but in some ways, they had learned to be miners. They liked it. It gave them dreams. It gave them the hope of getting their families out of poverty.

Rolando puts away the cellphone with the pictures of the dump truck. He says that almost the same thing is happening to him. His spinal column has weakened with time, and at 47, there are days in which his body does not function, and he must stay in bed.

– My blood pressure is always at the point of giving me a heart attack, and he inhales his cigarette and answers a phone call that distances him from the conversation.

Marilu is Rolando’s wife and she is also ill. She has headaches and her back hurts. She explains that her daughters have respiratory illnesses that can’t be cured. They say that these are the types of illnesses that the doctors don’t explain much of anything about.

In the community of San José de Palo Ralo, a few kilometers from the urban center of San Ignacio – although “urbanity” is more of a euphemism to describe a couple of paved streets — is where two women, two sisters live: Maritza who is 28 and Maria who is 41. Both are single mothers. While pregnant, both consumed contaminated water from a well built by the mining company with the authorization of the Secretary of Natural Resources, on the property where their entire extended family lives, a family with many women and small children. There are older men, and some young people, but most have decided to put their bets on the American dream, and they have left already, years ago they started to leave.

Maritza and Maria are the mothers of children who were born sick. Jefferson, Maritza’s son, has respiratory problems. Maria’s son Anthony has a growth problem, a problem speaking – I don’t understand it well but his mother gets lost in a labyrinth trying to understand his speech—and he was also born with physical disabilities that don’t allow him to walk, although Maria is hopeful that it can be resolved with an operation.

Anthony and Jefferson –both age six—stopped going to the doctor. They lost access to their doctors’ appointments because their mothers couldn’t handle the cost of traveling to Tegucigalpa from their community in a small hamlet of San Ignacio. Maritza couldn’t keep paying the one thousand two hundred Lempiras ($50) in transportation costs so that her son could be cared for in the Teaching Hospital.

–The Valley means life for us, but for some organisations it means coming, taking some pictures, because that’s the possibility of justifying some budgets. People are tired – someone tells me, explaining that I can put on paper what they said but not give names. I promise that person, that I won’t tell, but by their expression I understand that they don’t believe me.

The women in the Siria Valley were always invisible. They were never included on any statistical chart. Goldcorp Inc. only hired a few of them to take care of domestic chores for the company’s foreign executives. To wash their clothes. To cook for them. To maintain clean the lodging house that has now been transformed in the San Martin Tourism Centre, that costs forty five dollars a night, and no guest, for any reason, can bring a camera to take photos or videos.

–It is prohibited to take pictures.

–And what is fun about the place?

–I don’t know. I just know that they don’t let you take pictures.

  • Goldcorp video (3 minutes): “Goldcorp’s San Martin Mine Reclamation in Honduras”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M633xeOOvlI&feature=youtu.be
  • Rights Action comment: Please watch this corporate propaganda film that contrasts grotesquely with the reality on the ground, as documented in this article, film, and elsewhere.

At some point, because nobody remembers dates well in a shared history with much greater implications than the notion of time, the Environmental Committee of Siria Valley denounced water contamination in the rivers that cross through the valley, justifying the accusation in testing done on the water.

In 2009, the Catholic Agency for Oversees Development (CAFOD) carried out two investigations, under the responsibility of Dr. Adam Jarvis and Dr. Jaime Amezega, of the University of Newcastle, about the levels of acidity in the tributaries in the valley area. The studies showed that the water had a pH of 2.5 to 3 as well as high levels of cadmium, copper and iron. These results are included in the document “Records of Negative Effects of Mining in Central America: San Martin” published by CEICOM.

Environmentalists explained that Goldcorp Inc. responded by putting up Tilapia nurseries. They said that the waters weren’t contaminated, however later they had to hire workers with machinery from the San Ignacio municipality so that they could do them the favour of burying the fish, to hide all remains.

Prior to Goldcorp’s arrival the valley’s economy was principally agriculture. But livestock started to die. The corn wouldn’t grow anymore. Now they grow cane as pasture for the livestock. The only thing you can see down the long dirt roads that link together the valley’s communities are starving animals, living on large extensions of infertile land where even weeds have a hard time growing. There is an imposing, looming wall that the heap leach mining left behind. There are rivers whose waters are suspected to drag down gold, but also the metals that have sickened the life of the communities.

The banners of political parties that are now in electoral campaign wave on the electrical posts of the new local energy system. They show the smiling faces of candidates who offer the same promises they’ve been incapable of fulfilling for more than 20 years. A bridge – or more exactly, the idea of one – destroyed by the growth of the ferocious river over which it lays, and whose official approximate cost was close to the rash amount of six million lempiras. Small whitewashed mud houses are a home to numerous, anonymous families, that resist the idea of dying or leaving, because life in the valley is the only thing they know of, even though the valley doesn’t have much to offer its inhabitants.

–Young people are a lost case. They only know how to drink and take drugs –says the motorcycle-taxi driver who transported me.

–What drugs?

–Marijuana, cocaine…

–And where do they get it from?

–This is now a drug corridor. And those who don’t take the drugs go to the United States.

–But the boys have other options, they play sports, play soccer -and the girls?

–They get pregnant, take care of the house, drink and take drugs. Here there are thirteen year-old girls who are pregnant.

This thirty-two year old has been in the United States six times, and has spent several years driving a motorcycle taxi to feed his family. He has three children, with different women, he tells me. The first one he fathered when he was thirteen and then he wasn’t prepared, he didn’t know what to do. Now he is thinking of trying to go north again. There is no work. There is no health. And as usually occurs when misfortune comes as a package, educational opportunities are also scarce.

The person with a good understanding of educational problems in the valley is Teacher Jesus. She has worked as a teacher since 1987. She teaches 21 boys and girls in first grade in the José Trinidad Cabañas school. The school has a population of approximately 350 boys and girls from the El Pedernal community in the municipality of El Porvenir.

Teacher Jesus is fifty-three years old and suffers from dermatological problems since 2009, the year in which Goldcorp Inc. said they closed down their operations. But she no longer treats the allergy and lacerations that grow during the hot season; nobody knows what time of the year this season will occur because the climate has changed drastically in the valley area. She and her students are sick. She knows it. But she also knows that there is little to be done now. Although her gaze is firm, her eyes get watery when she says things that I barely understand. Perhaps the sadness of knowing she lives in a community that barely stands a chance.

The current new challenge facing the valley’s communities is that of avoiding the increased advance of the extractivist model that threatens the only water sources that remain uncontaminated: its thermal waters. To install a thermal energy generating company, eight thousand hectares of the valley have been given in concession to the “12 tribe” company and whose concessionary company is the Israeli Ormat Technologies.

After going to the valley, I realize that these people have given me a lot by telling me their stories, and I haven’t left them anything, just this text that will be published digitally, therefore the possibility that they’ll read it is remote. However, the truth that weighs more than all of the gold and silver of the mines that surround the valley is that the Honduran government has an enormous, even unpayable debt in moral reparations to these Siria Valley communities. Here, where the motto of “better life” is just an empty box.

Case study: The San Martín Mine, Siria Valley, Honduras

Another notorious Central American example of gangster-like behaviour on behalf of transnational mining companies comes from the Valle de Siria in Honduras which is featured in the items below. Carlos Danilo Amador, the General Secretary of the Regional Environmental Committee of the Valle de Siria, refers to Goldcorp, operators of the San Martín mine in the Valle de Siria as “these environmental assassins”[1]. In an interview with Todd Gordon and Jeffery R. Webber, two Canadian writers for The Bullet, Amador also supports this idea that the mining companies enter new areas with sweeteners and lies for the local population:

These companies create a false image of what they want to do in our territories – hiding the fact that they disrespect the dignity of our peoples, disrespect our human rights, impose cultures that are not ours, and rob our natural resources.[2]


[1] Carlos Danilo Amador, email communication with the author, 4 June 2009.
[2] Todd Gordon and Jeffery R. Webber (2010) ‘Canadian Mining and Popular Resistance in Honduras’, The Bullet, E-bulletin no.301, 29 January 2010.

The true cost of gold in Honduras

Since at least 2007, Goldcorp Inc. and the government of Honduras have known about, and covered up, information about blood poisoning and health problems caused by Goldcorp’s open-pit San Martín mine in the Siria Valley, department of Francisco Morazán, central Honduras. This mine is operated by Goldcorp’s subsidiary Entremares.

Although Goldcorp suspended its mining operation there in 2008, villagers in numerous towns near the mine site are suffering recurring health problems, even today. Local residents – as well as cows – have died of health problems likely caused by the mine.

14 year old Abel shows rashes that have recurred for years. Abel’s blood, based on the just released 2007 government studies, contains over twice the levels of blood-lead content for children recommended as safe by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). From El Pedernal, a village near the Goldcorp mine, Abel started experiencing health problems as early as 2003 when he began losing chunks of hair.

14 year old Abel shows rashes that have recurred for years. Abel’s blood, based on the just released 2007 government studies, contains over twice the levels of blood-lead content for children recommended as safe by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). From El Pedernal, a village near the Goldcorp mine, Abel started experiencing health problems as early as 2003 when he began losing chunks of hair.

Had Goldcorp and the government of Honduras released the results of their 2007 blood and urine samples, and accepted responsibility to care for the health problems caused by the mine, villagers in the Siria Valley might have received appropriate medical attention. Instead, the results were covered up until now. Still, neither Goldcorp nor the government have accepted responsibility.

Soon after Goldcorp began operating the San Martín mine in 2000 (then owned by Glamis Gold, bought out by Goldcorp in 2006), villagers in the Siria Valley began complaining about the effects of the mine on their health and water sources. Their genuine complaints were met with denials and/or silence from the government of Honduras and Goldcorp.

After years of community organisation, protests and advocacy concerning the health and environmental harms, independent health experts first carried out blood and water tests in the mine affected communities of Siria Valley in 2005-06. These initial studies found dangerously high levels of lead and arsenic (naturally occurring heavy metals released into the air and water in dangerous levels via the gold mining process) in people’s blood, but were discounted by Goldcorp and the Honduran authorities, claiming that they were not official studies.

As the increasingly obvious evidence of health and environmental harms mounted (hair loss, skin rashes, miscarriages in women and cows, dying cows, etc) and as pressure mounted from the Siria Valley Environmental Defense Committee (comprised of people from the mine affected communities) and other human rights and nongovernment groups, the government of Honduras carried out its own study in August 2007, taking blood and urine samples from a random and representative sampling of 62 children and adults in communities near Goldcorp’s San Martín mine. ‘Experts’ contracted by Goldcorp observed and were present during much of the blood and urine sampling process.

Upon completion, the government of Honduras did not release the results. Rather, the Ministry of Environment claimed a need to send the samples to ‘experts’ in Colombia, for further verification. Again, ‘experts’ contracted by Goldcorp traveled to Colombia to ‘accompany’ the blood and urine samples verification process.

Rosa Maria Cabrera, 4 years old, is from El Pedernal. Her mother is very worried. “Look. This is occurring again. Look at her little face. You should see how she scratches, and more in the night-time. The doctor tells us that for her to get better, we need to bathe her in water from elsewhere. But we are poor. Where can we go? We will die here for the contamination that Entremares has left us, … and they say it will be like this for a long time. May God take care of us.”

Rosa Maria Cabrera, 4 years old, is from El Pedernal. Her mother is very worried. “Look. This is occurring again. Look at her little face. You should see how she scratches, and more in the night-time. The doctor tells us that for her to get better, we need to bathe her in water from elsewhere. But we are poor. Where can we go? We will die here for the contamination that Entremares has left us, … and they say it will be like this for a long time. May God take care of us.”

From that moment, until this year, a silence has surrounded the results of those studies, despite constant demands from the mine-affected communities of the Siria Valley to get the results, Then on April 12, 2011, almost 4 years after the samples were taken, the 62 individuals began to receive the results of the levels ofarsenic, mercury and lead detected in the blood tests in 2007. Notably, the results of studying the urine samples have still not been released.

What is known, in summary, is that of the 62 people sampled in 2007, 46 of them (27 children and 19 adults) have dangerously high levels of heavy metals poisoning in their blood that would have required immediate and sustained medical treatment back in 2007, let alone today.

Twenty-four of the children studied contain dangerously elevated lead levels in blood (10 ug/dl = 10 micrograms of lead/decilitre of blood), according to World Health Organisation and CDC standards.

For a representative and random sampling of villagers near Goldcorp’s mine, these are extremely high percentages of villagers with indications of blood poisoning. The implications for the local population at large would have been alarming in 2007, had they been advised. They are just as alarming now, as villagers living near the mine site have continued to be exposed to the water and environmental contamination that has never been acknowledged by Goldcorp and the government of Honduras, let alone remedied.

What also appears clear is that Goldcorp knew of and therefore – we believe – helped cover up the blood test results by using its own ‘experts’ to oversee the process of collecting data.

In a further attempt to cover up this information and silence Siria Valley villagers, the Honduran government – with the reported knowledge of Goldcorp – now is going door-to-door to the homes of the 62 individuals, asking them to sign what appear to be confidentiality and waiver papers, and offering to take them to the public hospital in Tegucigalpa to treat them, based on the test results which revealed heavy metals found in their blood almost four years ago. This appears to be an effort to undermine the on-going work of the Siria Valley Committee, CEPRODEC and Dr. Juan Almendares; it is an attempt to silence sick individuals and stop any possible legal repercussions in the future.


Original report by Karen Spring and Grahame Russell, Rights Action, April 27, 2011 – Adapted by Doug Specht for ENCA

Canadian companies’ role in mining-related violence

Reproduced by kind permission of John Perry from an article entitled ‘El Dorado’ in the London Review of Books – LRB Blog, 20 May 2014

John Perry lives in Masaya, Nicaragua where he works on UK housing and migration issues and also works voluntarily with a Nicaraguan NGO. He blogs about Latin America and other issues at http://twoworlds.me/

Last June the G8 agreed a new plan called the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which is supposed to ensure poor countries receive the full benefit of their natural resources. Canada is one of EITI’s stakeholder countries; 60 per cent of the world’s mining companies are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

One of them, Pacific Rim (acquired last year by OceanaGold), owns a mine in El Dorado, El Salvador. It has met massive community opposition over the past five years. This has led to intimidation and assassinations; a 2010 report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature found Pacific Rim partially responsible for the violence. The company meanwhile is suing the El Salvador government for $300 million for cancelling its mining permit. During the arbitration it was accused of using its high-level contacts in a previous government to secure the permits, one of the practices the G8 aims to stop.

In Honduras two years ago, the Canadian company Goldcorp closed the St Martin mine in the Siria valley. The company claims to favour responsible mining, but there are still severe water shortages and many local people have toxic levels of arsenic, lead and mercury in their bodies. Drinking water tested positively for these contaminants in 2007 but the results weren’t released until 2011. The fight for compensation is making slow progress. In the meantime, Canada has helped Honduras put in place a new mining law which removes even the limited controls that existed when Goldcorp began operations. Concessions to mining companies now cover 35 per cent of Honduras territory.

In Costa Rica, Canadian-owned Infinito Gold is attempting to reopen another bitterly fought mining project, Las Crucitas. When its permits were revoked it sued the Costa Rican government for $94 million. The permits contravened a nationwide ban on open-cast mining, and brought corruption allegations against former president Oscar Arias who ruled in favour of the project ‘in the public interest’. The mine is on a tributary of the San Juan river, and risks polluting the wildlife conservation area along the frontier with Nicaragua. On 1 May, demonstrators gathered outside Goldcorp’s Toronto headquarters as its shareholders met to be told its latest profits.

Two weeks earlier in Mataquescuintla, Guatemala, a 16-year-old leader in the fight against Tahoe Resources’ Escobal mine, Topacio Reynoso Pacheco, was shot dead and her father badly injured. The mine threatens water supplies to communities where 23,000 people were polled in a referendum last November: more than 98 per cent opposed the mine. Months previously, the government was forced to declare a state of emergency because of the scale of the protests. Goldcorp has a 40 per cent stake in the operation. These and other incidents have been documented by Mining Watch Canada. In March, the Canadian prime minister said that the industry’s brand is ‘pretty good in this world’.

Goldcorp Staff Face Criminal Charges Over Mine Pollution After CAFOD Investigation

Monday, 16 August 2010 22:58

Authorities in Honduras last week filed criminal charges against senior officials of Entremares – a wholly-owned subsidiary of mining giant Goldcorp – based on evidence from aid agency CAFOD of severe water contamination.

The data gathered at the San Martin gold mine in the Siria Valley area of Honduras revealed dangerously high acidity and metal concentrations in water flowing into a local stream. The information uncovered by CAFOD was part of an official water monitoring report at the mine but was not disclosed or acted upon by the Honduran Government’s department for mineral resources or Goldcorp.

CAFOD Policy Analyst Sonya Maldar said: “We welcome the news that action has finally been taken against Goldcorp on the basis of CAFOD’s evidence and local community concerns. Given that Entremares is applying for new mining permits in Honduras, it is essential to get to the bottom of events at San Martin and ensure that the people of Honduras don’t pay the price of pollution in the long term.”

Charges have been filed against two executives from Entremares for contaminating water and damage to the environment. The accusations against Christian Pineda and Renan Santamaria are that their actions contravened Article 181 of the Honduran criminal code, and if convicted, they could face imprisonment of up to six years.

Gustavo Adolfo Torres Garay, a former senior official within DEFOMIN (the Honduran Department for the Administration of Mineral Resources) has been charged with breach of official duties for failing to act on evidence of pollution. This is in contravention of Article 349 of the Honduran criminal code with a punishment of up to three years and disqualification from office.

Goldcorp is one of the world’s largest gold mining companies and has consistently denied that the San Martin mine has caused environmental damage. On top of the undisclosed water monitoring report, Newcastle University experts also gathered visual evidence of acid mine drainage close to the mine site.

The Newcastle study was carried out in 2009 in response to a request for technical support from the Honduran authorities. During a visit to Honduras in November 2008, Paul Younger, Professor of Hydrogeochemical Engineering at Newcastle University and a renowned expert on mine water management, noted signs of acidic mine drainage close to the mine site.

Professor Paul Younger said: “Goldcorp’s denial of pollution at San Martin has done the company no favours. If Goldcorp had been open about the problems, they could have avoided this action by the Honduran Environmental Prosecutor. The effects of acid mine drainage can continue for long after a mine has closed so the company must publicly commit to long term monitoring and maintenance at the site to prevent a recurrence of such pollution in the future.”

During a subsequent visit, Dr Adam Jarvis and Dr Jaime Amezaga, also of Newcastle University, saw unequivocal evidence that highly acidic and metal-rich water had discharged from one part of the mine (the Tajo Palo Alto) to a local stream, on at least one occasion. This evidence was in the form of an analytical report of water samples collected by DEFOMIN (the Honduran Department for the Administration of Mineral Resources), the government body responsible for promoting mining in Honduras, granting concessions and monitoring environmental impact.

Drs Jarvis and Amezaga’s report of their visit, which was released by CAFOD in December 2009, reveals acidity of the water at two sites reached levels of a pH between 2.5 and 3, which is typically very damaging to stream biology. (Distilled water has a pH of 7, vinegar 3 and lemon juice 2). As well as high levels of cadmium, copper and iron.

This is consistent with a complaint presented by a local community group, the Siria Valley Environmental Committee, to Honduras’ Environmental Prosecutor about discolouration of the water flowing from streams originating from within the mine’s perimeter on 24 September 2008. Community members reported that the water was a “reddish colour (…) and emanated a strong smell of sulphur”. This indicates that contaminated water from the mine’s perimeter had entered streams used by people in the Siria Valley for domestic and agricultural purposes.

Pedro Landa of the Honduran Centre for Community Promotion and Development said: “The case against Entremares (Goldcorp) finally acknowledges the damage caused by this company which has had such a profound effect on the local population and the whole country. It is disappointing that an international company like Goldcorp refuses to take responsibility for its actions. We will stay vigilant so that the authorities apply the full weight of the law and do not allow Entremares to abandon the mine without taking responsibility for the damage it has caused to the local community and environment.”

San Martin was the largest open cast mine in Central America before it ceased production in 2008. Since then, Canadian mining company Goldcorp has been carrying out the final stages of mine closure, which it is expected to complete by the end of 2010. The mine has caused controversy from the start, with local people claiming they were not fully consulted about the project.
NOTES:
In 2007, the Honduran Secretariat of Natural Resources and Environment (SERNA) fined Goldcorp one million lempiras, equivalent in value to about £26,000 (at the time) for pollution and damage to the environment. The company has consistently disputed these tests and has appealed against the fine.

In 2007, the Latin America Water Tribunal ruled on a complaint filed by members of the Siria Valley communities, finding Goldcorp accountable for damage to the environment and unreasonable use of water in the Siria Valley.

Acid mine drainage is a process whereby sulphides in the rock are exposed to oxygen and water and react to produce sulphuric acid. It can have devastating impacts on the environment, contaminating groundwater with toxic heavy metals and killing plants and animals for years after the mine has closed. Professor Younger’s observations included unequivocal signs of discoloration of streams indicating that metal-rich, and likely acidic, waters have discharged from the mine perimeter.

Communities in the Siria Valley have also complained of health problems, including respiratory, skin and gastro-intestinal diseases, which they believe are a result of drinking water polluted by the mine. A study carried out by the Honduran Department for the Environment in 2008, found high levels of heavy metals, such as arsenic, lead and mercury in blood samples taken from villagers living close to the mine. The study has yet to be published by the government. Goldcorp denies that the health problems are a result of their operations.

CAFOD has attempted to raise concerns about pollution at the San Martin mine with Goldcorp on numerous occasions via letter and in person for several years. The Newcastle University report was presented to Goldcorp’s senior management in 2009 but the company has still refused to admit that the site had ever caused water contamination. Without open disclosure of how serious the water contamination was, it is difficult for independent specialists to be sure that the remedial measures now proposed by the mine will be sufficient to protect the communities from long term environmental hazards

Environmentalist and Communicator from the Siria Valley, Honduras Denounces Threats

Written by Dina Meza – Tuesday, 18 February 2014 11:01

Translated [by MiningWatch Canada] from the original posted by Honduran journalist Dina Meza on February 14, 2014 in facebook:

Carlos Amador, an environmentalist and communicator from the Siria Valley in Honduras, is denouncing that over the last few months he has been watched and followed by unknown individuals using vehicles with tinted windows and without license plates. He attributes this situation to the work he does in the area in defence of the environment and through exercising his freedom of expression through local radio and television programs.

Amador is a well-known environmentalist and member of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee that has spoken out against environmental contamination and deforestation due to mining and logging. This struggle has brought with it legal persecution.

On July 5th [2011], operating under an arrest warrant from the Public Ministry, Amador together with Marlon Hernández from the Siria Valley Environmental Committee were temporarily detained by local police and given a prison sentence with substitute measures such that they had to sign in every 15 days at the court house. 15 other people had to follow the same procedure. All were accused of having obstructed a forestry management plan in the community of Tepalitos, in the municipality of El Porvenir, illegally granted in 2009.

Ten months ago, Channel 14 opened in the community of El Porvenir where Amador directs the program “In Contact with the News”, which is broadcast Monday to Friday from 7 to 8pm. The program covers environmental issues in the Siria Valley, including information that a new mining company will initiate operations in three communities of the Siria Valley.

Being followed since November 2013

The environmentalist is afraid for his life, given that since last November motorcyclists have been following him every time he goes to Tegucigalpa to carry out different errands and to meet with other environmentalists. “A black motorcycle has followed me on four occasions,” he stated with worry.

But the watching and following is also happening in his own community, near the school where he works as a teacher, as well as around the television station where he broadcasts his program, as well as a radio program called, “The Direct Line with the People”, broadcast on Saturdays and Sundays, during which the local environmental struggle is regularly discussed and the opening of new mining operations rejected.

He mentioned that on January 15th of this year, a man arrived at his school and said that he had come because he was interested in sponsoring children. He noted, “What is disconcerting about this case is that he drove one of the two cars that were parked outside during his television show. I realized this when I noticed that he was driving a grey vehicle without licence plates and with tinted windows, similar to the other vehicle [he had seen it with] that is white with a double cabin.”

Mining operations have brought along serious consequences for the health of residents in the Siria Valely who have been suffering since Entre Mares, S.A. de C.V. puts its mine into operation. Entre Mares, S.A. de C.V. is a subsidiary of Canadian company Goldcorp.

The environmentalist movement of the Siria Valley, with support from Dr. Juan Almendares Bonilla, a doctor, physiologist, investigator, past Rector of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) and member of Friends of the Earth International made nationally and internationally known on November 2, 2011, their concerns over the impacts of environmental contamination on the residents of the Siria Valley in the department of Francisco Morazán, where Goldcorp operated until about 2008.

Concentrations of lead have been found in a number of people analyzed that are above acceptable levels according to World Health Organization (WHO) standards. The mining company began operating in Honduras in 2000 and closed its mine in 2008, however, despite serious reported impacts on the health of residents in the municipalities of Cedros, San Ignacio, and El Porvenir, all located in the Siria Valley, to date, the company has not compensated those affected who continue to live with the consequences that are believed to be linked to environmental contamination.

Not another Entre Mares

The tireless struggle of Carlos Amador in defence of the environment is what makes him run risks. He says, “I don’t want another Entre Mares because it has left us with serious consequences in the Siria Valley.”

Since 2011, residents of several local communities have noted that agricultural equipment for tilling the soil would arrive and then leave covered up with tarpaulins. Later on they realized that in the community of El Suyatal, in the municipality of Cedros that a mining concession had been granted without prior community consultation.

In addition to this situation in the Siria Valley, environmentalists in Santa Barbara have been struggling as part of the Santa Barbara Environmental Movement for which they have also suffered persecution and threats.

In Nueva Esperanza near the town of Tela, in the department of Atlántida, two members of the Honduras Accompaniment Project (PROAH), Daniel Langmeier and Orlane Vidal were abducted [for several hours at gunpoint in July 2013]. PROAH is an organization that works to prevent or deescalate high risk situations in which the lives of human rights defenders in Honduras are at risk.

The company Minerales Victoria has been operating in this area. The company’s project started up in the community without adequate prior consultation and against their will. Armed guards regularly intimidate the community, threatening those who refuse to sell their lands to Lenir Pérez, as well as others who have organized to peacefully oppose mining.

The Indigenous Lenca people who are part of the Honduran Council of Popular and Indigenous Council (COPINH by its initials in Spanish) have undertaken an ongoing struggle to demand that development of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project stop for having violated their territory, privatized their water through concessions, including the Gualcarque River and its tributaries for more than 20 years, and for destroying cultural and economic heritage that also means displacement and loss of their inalienable human rights to water, and violation of Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

This overall situation has gotten worse with the coup d’etat in 2009 that gave way to the granting of national territory in concessions to mining companies and transnational hydroelectric firms in association with national companies and individuals who have a lot of economic and political power in Honduras.

Original in Spanish in facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dina.meza.73