Honduran Civil Society Groups Reject Proposed Mining Law That Puts Corporate Interests Before Human Rights

The Honduran congress is trying to rush through a new mining law without real and effective participation from Honduran civil society. Civil society organizations have put out an urgent communiqué, which we have translated and that raises serious concerns about how this proposed law would prioritize corporate interests over human rights. This takes place in the context of targeted threats and attacks on the security and well being of activists and journalists in the country. MiningWatch is concerned about the implications for further conflict in the country if a full and meaningful public process does not take place. Canadian mining companies such as Goldcorp and Aura Minerals play a prominent role in Honduras' mining sector and could benefit from a favourable new regime.

Communiqué: Honduran organizations reject the National Congress’ proposed mining law because it violates the rights of the Honduran people

(Tegucigalpa, Honduras) The below signed organizations alert the Honduran people to the National Congress’ decision to approve a proposed mining law, written by the National Congress’ Legislative Commission led by deputy Donaldo Reyes Avelar for disrespecting the demands that the citizens of this country have been making in this regard for the last decade.

Our organizations have demanded that the commission create space for debate and discussion such that a collective process may take place to develop a mining law with real citizen participation and in which the rights of campesino and indigenous populations would be privileged, protected and guaranteed, along with the conservation and protection of the environment and, above all, that the right of communities to determine their own development be respected.

With regard to our demands, the Mining Commission informed us on Monday January 16th that the ruling on the mining bill was finished and that they had committed themselves to hand it in to the President of Congress before the end of the current legislative session, given that they were under “enormous pressure from investors.” They also indicated that they were predisposed to meet with social organizations, environmentalists and human rights defenders to inform them about its contents, which was contrary to our demand for active and effective citizen participation.

Upon reviewing the proposed law that we received from the Mining Commission, we find that its content is more damaging than the current law, which it tries to rectify, in continuation with the servile way in which our riches have been handed over to national and foreign investors, behind the backs of the Honduran people.

This proposed law developed by the Mining Commission behind closed doors seriously violates the territorial, cultural, and spiritual rights of indigenous and afro-descendent peoples, as well as their full and legitimate right to autonomy and rights under Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, revealing its colonialist and racist intent to exterminate original peoples.

This proposed law also attempts to:

  1. Continue promoting open-pit mining,
  2. Open the door not just for multinational corporations, but also for foreign governments to become title owners of mining concessions,
  3. Fail to guarantee and protect access to water for communities, privileging its use by the mining industry, in an open violation of the human right to water,
  4. Ensure, within the context of creating incentives for investments, the validity of tax loopholes so that companies don’t pay taxes,
  5. Reduce requirements for granting of mining concessions, paving the way for investors and making it difficult for communities to defend their natural resources,
  6. Reduce and eliminate the majority of reasons for which mining concessions can be cancelled, which coincides with content of an earlier bill that was being debated,
  7. Restrict and impede access to information regarding mining activities, deeming this information (technical and financial) as confidential and only available to the mining authority,
  8. Only consider binding community consultation under exceptional circumstances and not as a general norm. Also, the consultation process is only established for production licenses, which entails the automatic granting of concessions given the potential lawsuits that companies could bring against the state [presumably under free trade agreements or other investment protection agreements],
  9. Promote administrative silence as an expedited way to approve requests that mining companies make.

But the principal trap within the proposed Mining Law is found in Article 103, which reads: “Upon approval of this law, those applications which are currently in process will continue to be processed through to completion under the law in place when they were submitted, without prejudice to the revision, evaluation and rectification which these applications could entail.”

This means that the more than 300 mining projects that have still not been approved, which were suspended by Executive Decree, will be processed under the current mining law. This is the same law that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Justice. This disposition contradicts article 105 of the proposed mining law, which revokes Legislative Decree 292-98 that contains the General Mining Law. As such, the proposed law hands the whole country over to the mining companies so that they can destroy it as they like.

Given this situation, we call upon social organizations, environmentalists, indigenous and afro-descendant peoples, and human rights organizations, to express their repudiation, rejection and condemnation of the contents of this proposed law, as well as of those deputies that are trying to make a fool of the Honduran people by acting in the interests of multinational mining companies and not of their own people, whom they are constitutionally mandated to serve.

We also demand that the President of the National Congress respond to our insistence that space be created for public debate and creation of a mining law that is truly patriotic, that incorporates the demands and proposals of the people, and not to carry out a simple information process as the mining commission has done.

The indigenous peoples who sign this declaration, signal that if this law is approved, we will not recognize this law nor what takes place by extension, nor those who approve it. We also make clear that with this law or without it, we have the right to self-determination and dignity, and are not prepared to accept our own death and the continuation of colonialism.

Finally, we conclude that if this law is approved behind closed doors and behind the backs of the Honduran people, the National Congress and the deputies of the Mining Commission will be those responsible for the social conflict that this will generate, when the Honduran people exercise their rights to the defense of their territory, the protection of the environment and the protection and safeguarding of life, and the integrity of people and their goods.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, January 24, 2012.

Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development (CEHPRODEC)
Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH)
Civic Alliance for Democracy (ACD)
Committee for the Defence of the Flora and Fauna of the Gulf of Fonseca (CODEFFAGOLF)
Regional Environmental Committee of the Siria Valley
National Association for the Promotion of Ecological Agriculture (ANAFAE)
Centre for Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights (CIPRODEH)
The Santa Barbara Environmental Movement (M.A.S.)
Madre Tierra Association
Association of Non Governmental Organizations (ASONOG)
Popol Nah Tun Foundation
Environmental Network of the Municipalities of Comayagua and La Paz (REDAMUCOP)
Association of Environmentalist and Agro-Forestry Journalists (AHPAAF)
Network of Nature Defence Committees of Choluteca and Valle
National Roundtable on Advocacy for Risk Management (member of the steering committee of SINAGER)
Committee of Journalists for Life and the Freedom of Expression
Environmental Defence Committee of the Guisayote Reserve
Honduran Ecumenical Institute for Community Service (INHESCO)
National Network of Mine Affected Communities
Defence Committee of the Rights of the Indigenous People of Yamaranguila (COPRODEDPIY)