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"Honduras Is Worth More Than Gold"
Anti-mining Campaign | 25/2/2001
States of Unrest

Honduras: Mining & "Free" Trade

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"Honduran Government Leases One Third Of Country To Mining Companies"

[- Excerpted from Drillbits & Tailings (March 31, 2001), an electronic
monthly on the mining & oil industries, published by "project

Seventy-five people representing 15 communities located adjacent to 8
mines attended a meeting in Honduras to launch a national anti-mining
campaign called "Honduras Is Worth More Than Gold."  The meeting took
place on March 9 and put forward several goals, including the
prohibition of the use of cyanide in mining operations, the prohibition
the expropriation of campesino and indigenous lands, and the
strengthening of mining and environmental laws.

"We are here today at this National Meeting of Communities Affected by
Mining because foreign mining companies are destroying our communities.
They disrespect our human rights, bribe our officials, use our water and
contaminate our lands. We are united here today to tell the companies
and our own authorities that these mines must be closed.  What happens
today in San Ignacio or San Andres could happen in your community
tomorrow, so don't be fooled. Together we must close the mines and
protect our communities." (Roger Escobar, Vice President of the Regional
Committee to Protect the Environment of the Sirian Valley)

The Asociacion de Organismos No Gubernamentales, ASONOG, based in Santa
Rosa de Copan has found through more than a year of investigating that
in 1996 and 1997, the Honduran mining department issued mining
concessions totaling around 14,000 square miles (36,000 square
kilometers), or close to 30% of Honduras' territory, to multinational
mining companies, mainly from the United States, Canada and Australia.

Meanwhile, while Hurricane Mitch was killing 15000 mainly poor Hondurans
and Nicaraguans, ...

In December of 1998, just four weeks after Hurricane Mitch ravaged much
of the country, the "General Mining Law" was passed, which reduced taxes
and gave companies nearly unlimited power to petition for the removal of
traditional communities located near mineral deposits. This law was
written by the mining association "ANAMINH", made up of US and Canadian

ANAMINH's General Mining Law, passed while sectors of Honduran society
were literally under water or mud, offers companies lifelong
concessions, low taxes, unlimited access to water, legal rights to
expropriate campesino and indigenous lands, and few environmental
regulations.  Sixteen out of 18 department (states) in the central,
south and eastern rainforest region are being affected by open-pit,
cyanide heap leaching gold mines.  The eastern rainforest region is
being threatened by river dredging operations.

According to ASONOG, the argument in favor of expanding mining
operations in Honduras is a neo-liberal economic model based on
attracting foreign venture capital at all costs.  ASONOG also reports
that in December of 2000, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
pressured Honduras to reduce taxes even further, with the elimination of
the export tax on mining products.  With land use fees as low as
US$1,500 a year for a large mine, and a nominal 1% municipal tax,
Honduras has created an "ideal" environment for foreign companies.

Greenstone Resources Limited, a then-Canadian company, was one of the
first mining companies to take advantage of this "favorable business
climate" in Honduras. According to ASONOG, Greenstone gained the mining
concession for several hundred acres in Copan in western Honduras in the
mid-1990s, and promptly moved to evict the local residents. The
community fought off Greenstone for two years, during which time the
company shut off their water and intentionally ran over one resident
with a bulldozer.  The community eventually gave in but, four years
later, still does not have legal title to the new lands promised to
them. Greenstone, after going bankrupt, was auctioned to a new company.

"Our community has existed on this land for nearly 200 years.  When the
company Greenstone came they offered us employment and promised to leave
our road, the cemetery and surrounding lands intact.  But we were
fooled.  The company's explosions shake our homes and their open pit is
swallowing our homes, causing landslides and cracks in our walls and
foundations.  They close our road so we have no access to our homes and
their heavy equipment put our children's lives at risk.  When we
complain, the Mining Department says that we have to understand that
this is for the good of the country. ... This mine is violating our
human rights and if we don't join together we'll never end these
abuses," said Miguel Miranda, President of the Azacualpa Community

In order to build solidarity and knowledge about the impacts of mining,
people from communities in western Honduras have visited communities in
central Honduras and vice versa. Indigenous people in eastern Honduras
are fighting to protect from dredging the rivers that run through their
ancient tropical rainforest.

"Honduras Is Worth More Than Gold"

In March 2001, these communities, together with environmental and human
rights organizations, met to launch a national anti-mining campaign,
"Honduras Is Worth More Than Gold."  Several of the goals of this
campaign are:  1) prohibit the use of cyanide in mining operations, 2)
prohibit the expropriation of campesino and indigenous lands, and 3)
strengthen mining and environmental laws.


SOURCES: Excerpted from campaign materials written by Michael Marsh from
the Asociacion de Organismos No Gubernamentales (ASONOG); pers. comm.
with Michael Marsh.

1) Help investigate US and Canadian mining companies with operations in
Honduras.  Write ASONOG or Michael Marsh [see below] to coordinate this

ASONOG — Asociación de Organismos No Gubernamentales:  ASONOG, Apdo. Postal 218, Santa Rosa de Copán,
Honduras, Central America.

Michael Marsh,

2) Bring educational delegations to Honduras, or come as individuals and
work as volunteerr, who can live in Honduras and work on the campaign.
Desired commitment: one year.  Contact ASONOG or Michael Marsh.

3) Read more about how international mining companies are ruining the
lives, livelihood and environment in developing countries at Project
Underground ( and the Mineral Policy Center

4) Help fund this work of ASONOG.  Contact Rights Action to find out how
to make tax-charitable donations in Canada and the US. T:
416-654-2074.  E:

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