Testimony regarding health problems caused by and property rights abused by the Marlin Mine

Testimony taken 24 July 2009 in San José Ixcaniche, close to the Marlin Mine, from Doña Marcela (a pseudonym), wife of a worker at the mine.

My husband … is ill because he works for the Montana company. He works with the chemicals and the heavy metals and we have written proof which states that he has contaminated blood. Now we want to get another examination done by an external authority to see if it coincides with the company’s readings.

Also, she [points to her daughter] is very ill because my husband was working with the company when she was born. Every fortnight I have to take her to a doctor. Three days ago I saw a child specialist who told me that it’s really very serious. She doesn’t have much of a defence system, probably because of the heavy metals.

Right now we are suffering – my husband is ill; she’s ill; and I’ve got problems with Montana because they invaded my property in San José Nueva Esperanza, over there, and fenced it off, and now I can’t get into my own land. … I have documents to show that I am the owner. They don’t even ask my permission. They pass by on a road right through the middle of my land without asking permission – there’s no consultation.

Two years ago I made a claim against Montana. They came to surface the road which had been built through the middle of my land. They felled the pines. They caused a landslide in the land because they moved so much earth. They also drilled into the ground.

I believe this is unfair – what they are doing is an injustice. Many people are in favour of them, but I don’t know why because the reality is that the company is causing great damage. …Many of them do it for the money; many do it because they have a business, and so they tend to support Montana. I think that you shouldn’t behave like this for the sake of a business. You should do it for the sake of your life, for your children and for their children. I don’t want to let my child die just because of the mine.

When mining firms sue

John Perry 15 September 2014 [Reproduced by kind permission]

Last week a fracking company was refused permission to drill in the South Downs National Park. Celtique Energie is considering an appeal to Eric Pickles to overrule the decision. He might be reluctant to cause a furore in West Sussex, but would he feel the same if aggrieved companies could sue the government for lost profits? This can happen if foreign firms have access to an investor-state dispute settlement, as provided for in the new trade agreements being finalised by the EU with Canada and the US. Ministers reassure us that the provisions are nothing new, without mentioning that US companies are the world leaders in making ISDS claims. The two main ISDS tribunals, run by the World Bank and the UN, operate behind closed doors, with private attorneys who rotate between being judges and advocates, and have no appeals mechanisms.

North American mining companies appear to find making claims against foreign states almost as profitable as prospecting for minerals. Lone Pine Resources, registered in Delaware, is using an ISDS to bring a $250 million suit against Canada for not allowing it to frack under the St Lawrence River. Big money is already being made by suing poor countries in Latin America that have signed trade agreements with ISDS clauses and struggle to meet the legal bills (typically $8 million per case). Peru is being sued for $800 million by Renco for ordering a pollution clean-up that allegedly forced the company into bankruptcy; Costa Rica for $94 million by Infinito Gold. In October 2012, in the biggest ever ISDS award, Occidental Petroleum was granted $1.7 billion (plus interest) for a terminated contract in Ecuador.

Pacific Rim is suing the El Salvador government for $301 million for refusing a gold mining permit. To make the original claim in 2009, it shifted its HQ from the Cayman Islands to benefit from the ISDS clause in a US trade agreement. When this was rejected, it moved the claim to the World Bank’s tribunal, which begins its secret hearing of the case today. According to El Salvador’s rejoinder, Pacific Rim never complied with the requirements for a mining permit in the first place, preferring to rely on lobbying of government ministers. It didn’t own all the land involved or have permission from landowners. Activists have been threatened or killed and water supplies polluted during exploration.

Canadian mining firms are looking forward to the ‘remarkable agreement’ that could soon be signed between the EU and Canada. Like the TTIP between the EU and US, the CETA hasn’t been published, but both agreements are believed to include sweeping ISDS clauses. France’s moratorium on fracking since 2011, defended twice in domestic courts, could be especially vulnerable to ISDS claims from the US or Canada. In Britain, where George Osborne thinks there is a broad consensus in favour of fracking, local prohibitions or regulations to control it could be threatened under the treaties. Fortunately, Germany seems to be having last-minute doubts about signing them.

In 2008 El Salvador imposed a moratorium on all new mining operations. Pacific Rim’s suit is the first challenge against it, and defending it cost the government $5 million before the case even went to court. If the claim succeeds in full, El Salvador will have to pay the mining company the equivalent of half its national health budget. Today is El Salvador’s independence day. As the country celebrates 193 years of freedom from Spanish rule, its sovereignty is under threat from a private company, pressing its claim behind closed doors at the World Bank.

[John Perry lives in Masaya, Nicaragua, where, perplexingly, he writes and edits books on British housing and social policy. The London Review of Books has stood up for the tradition of the literary and intellectual essay in English since 1979.]

Goldcorp shareholder resolution on free, prior and informed consent, 2010

Goldcorp shareholders Kathryn Anderson and Brenda Cooper submitted the following proposal for consideration at Goldcorp’s Annual Meeting of Shareholders held in Toronto, Canada, on 19 May 2010:


“That the Board create and adopt, by September 1st 2010, a corporate policy on the right to free, prior and informed consent (‘FPIC’) for its operations impacting indigenous communities and all communities dependent on natural resources for survival.”


“We ask the Board to consider the following in creating this policy:

1. To respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as best practice with regard to FPIC rights.

2. Take specific note of the legal difference between consultation and consent.

3. Implement this policy retroactively to ensure that all our mining licenses were obtained in adherence to this policy.

4. Cease all operations, expansion and exploration where consent of the affected population has not been obtained by the state.

5. Apply this policy to any license with partial or full Goldcorp ownership.”

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

Fears of and complaints against the El Dorado Mine, El Salvador

Water shortages – The separation of gold from the earth in which it is found requires huge quantities of water and all of the 24 sites identified by Pacific Rim as potentially exploitable are found on or near to the Río Lempa which provides the drinking water supply consumed by two million inhabitants of the capital city San Salvador as well as much of the rest of the country. Within Latin America, only Haiti is ranked higher than El Salvador in water scarcity. In 2008, ranchers in Cabañas noticed that the springs used for irrigation and water supply were drying up. “Upon investigation, ranchers found … [that] the exploratory drill holes utilised by Pacific Rim to estimate gold deposits were re-channelling underground streams and drastically impacting the aquifer.”[1]

Water contamination – The process of cyanide heap leaching in gold mining can contaminate water sources through leakages. This can be so even where the used solution is stored in a tailings pond, many of which have been known to spring fissures and leaks.

Soil contamination – The fear of soil contamination is founded on the belief that chemical residues will seep into the soil from a tailings pond and/or from spillages. Toxic contamination of soils could potentially find its way into the food chain if land was returned to farming uses after mine closure.

Atmospheric contamination – Mining industry proponents are always quick to point out that cyanide evaporates relatively rapidly so that cyanide content in water can reduce at a fast rate. What they do not draw attention to is the fact that the evaporate then becomes a cause of acid rain. Whilst this can spread over a wide area, acid rain can also be concentrated and is likely to affect the land and water onto which it falls as well as the atmosphere from which it falls.[2]

Increased corruption – The Centre of Research into Investment and Commerce (CEICOM) has accused Pacific Rim of corruption to further its ends: “it provoked community conflicts and bought off mayors, deputies, etc.”[3] Similarly, Jason Wallach has suggested that “Pacific Rim attempted to buy public support – or at least quell resistance with PR campaign touting the virtues of Minería Verde’ or ‘green mining’”.[4]

Violence and social divisions – An important part of Pacific Rim’s public relations strategy in the communities affected by the El Dorado mine has been payments to local influential people such as mayors for their approval of mining operations. This tends to divide communities into those who support the mine and those who oppose it. In the second half of 2009, after the submission of Pacific Rim’s lawsuit against the state of El Salvador, four anti-mining activists (Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera Gómez, Felicíta Echeverría and Dora Sorto Recinos – see Appendix 1 for more details) were assassinated in Cabañas. It has to be stated that there is no direct evidence to link Pacific Rim with the assassinations, but the common feature of all these murders and of the death threats and other threats received by journalists, priests and others is that all the victims oppose mining. The company has remained curiously silent about the murders and has failed to denounce violence against anti-mining activists. As Miguel Rivera, the brother of Marcelo who was assassinated, said, “we want to know who is behind all this … and we have serious suspicions that it has been the Pacific Rim mining company that is financing these activities to terrorise those who are opposed [to mining].”[5]

[1] Jason Wallach (2009) ‘Pacific Rim Silent in Wake of Violence Against Anti-Mining Protesters in Cabañas, El Salvador’, (5August 2009) Upside Down World, http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/2037/74/ (accessed 21.09.09).
[2] Florian Erzinger (2008) ‘60% del Suministro de Agua de El Salvador Está en Riesgo por Proyectos Mineros’, Revista Ecotopia 218, UNES, San Salvador.
[3] CEICOM (2009) ‘Ejemplo a Seguir’, CEICOM, 5 November 2009, www.ceicom.org/index.php (accessed 20.11.09).
[4] See Note 1 (above).
[5] Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) ‘Subject: Anti-mining activists demand justice, denounce wave of political violence, death squad resurgence’. (Available at: http://www.facebook.com/l/;cispes.org – accessed 26.08.09)

Pacific Rim’s version of its work in El Salvador

The following claims are extracted from a range of sources including the website of the Pacific Rim Mining Corporation – www.pacificrim.com.sv – which includes sections on ‘Social Responsibility’ and ‘Environmental Leadership’. In these website sections it devotes considerable space to its environmental programmes of reforestation, recycling, water protection measures and environmental monitoring programmes and to its social and community programmes relating to employment, education, health and the environment. It also reports on a national poll in El Salvador which directly contradicts the results of other polls and which shows a majority of Salvadorans in favour of mining.

“The Company exclusively explores for high grade, environmentally low-impact deposits that offer the potential for high margins. Our exploration is conducted with the utmost respect for local communities, their culture, health and the environment.”[1]

The corporation claims that it would detoxify any water used for mining, leaving local water sources cleaner than they were previously. “You could basically stick a cup in the water and drink it,” Pacific Rim’s Barbara Henderson recently boasted to the Miami Herald.[2]

Pacific Rim contends that the mining project would ultimately benefit Salvadoran citizens, becoming the country’s greatest source of tax revenue and generating thousands of jobs. … the company’s CEO, Tom Shrake, claimed that only 25% of El Salvador’s population opposed the mining, and accused the opposition of a misinformation campaign. According to Shrake, “The idea that this type of mining is catastrophic to the environment is pure fiction invented by politically-minded international NGOs who hide behind environmental protection in their anti-development activities.”[3]

Pacific Rim’s CEO Tom Shrake says the mine will give a much-needed boost to the local economy, estimating the project will bring a total of 2,000 jobs. Shrake adds the mine will also generate revenue for the government which is entitled to a 3% tax on the mine’s gross sales.[4]

In response [to the anti-mining campaign], Pacific Rim attempted to buy public support – or at least quell resistance with a PR campaign touting the virtues of ‘minería verde’ or ‘green mining’ [which] touted the benefits of mining projects on local development.[5]

Tom Shrake … stated, “Sadly, it is not just Pacific Rim whose rights are being compromised, but the rights of all Salvadorans and foreign investors. Local communities and social and environmental agencies are being denied the benefits of our community programmes.”[6]

In a conference call explaining the details of the Notice of Intent, Shrake blamed non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in El Salvador for the Salvadoran government’s refusal to grant Pacific Rim mining extraction permits. Specifically, Shrake named Oxfam America as “the most active organisation in the country” supporting anti-mining efforts. Shrake claimed NGOs “just try to scare the heck out of everybody involved” in mining.[7]

[1] Pacific Rim Mining Corporation website (2010) ‘Overview’, www.pacrim-mining.com/s/Projects.asp (accessed 05.02.10).
[2] Michael Busch (2009) ‘El Salvador’s Gold Fight’, Foreign Policy in Focus, 16 July 2009, www.fpif.org/articles/el_salvadors_gold_fight (accessed 17.02.10).
[3] Lisa Skeen (2010) ‘Salvadoran Anti-Mining Activists Risk Their Lives by Taking On ‘Free Trade’’, NACLA Reports, 1 February 2010, https://nacla.org/node/6389 (accessed 05.02.10).
[4] Zach Dyer (2009) ‘El Salvador Faces CAFTA Suit Over Mine Project’, NACLA Report, 6 February 2009, http://nacla.org/node/5499 (accessed 17.03.09).
[5] Jason Wallach (2009) ‘Pacific Rim Silent in Wake of Violence Against Anti-Mining Protesters in Cabañas, El Salvador’, Upside Down World, 5 August 2009, http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/2037/74/ (accessed 21.09.09).
[6] Tom Shrake cited by Michelle Petrotta (2009) ‘Pacific Rim Corp. Files Suit Against Salvadoran Government’, El Salvador Solidarity, January 2009, http://elsalvadorsolidarity.org/joomla/index2.php (accessed 08.01.10)
[7] Ibid.

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.
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