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NEWS: Free trade and Goldcorp’s San Martin mine in Honduras

The San Martin mine in Honduras

The San Martin mine in Honduras

This summer the Canadian Press reported, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s trip to Honduras on (August 12) will be the first state visit by a foreign leader since the country was allowed back into the Organization of American States following a coup that ousted the country’s leftist president. Canada was one of the first countries to throw its support behind Porfirio Lobo Sosa, a wealthy rancher elected president of the tiny Central American country in November 2009, months after former leader Manuel Zelaya was disposed. Since then, Canada has stepped up trade talks with Honduras…”

“Canada has drawn criticism for courting Honduras. The group Human Rights Watch claims at least eight journalists and 10 members from a political group that opposed the 2009 coup called the National Popular Resistance Front have been killed since Lobo took office.” According to the human rights group Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (Committee of Family Members of the Disappeared of Honduras), there were 1,071 documented violations of human rights (including arbitrary detentions, threats of physical harm, torture and assassinations) during the first four months alone of the Lobo regime.” And COFADEH reports that from January 2010 to January 31, 2011 there has been a total of 1,658 human rights violations.

The Canadian Press article, without specifics, notes, “Canadian mining companies have also been blamed for health problems among Honduras’ indigenous communities.”

This undoubtedly refers to Vancouver-based Goldcorp’s open-pit San Martin gold mine.
In January 2010, Carlos Danilo Amador, the General Secretary of the Regional Environmental Committee of the Valle de Siria, was interviewed by York University professor Todd Gordon and University of Regina professor Jeffrey R. Webber. Danilo Amador stated, “(Goldcorp is) violating the right and the dignity of access to clean water. The water in Valle de Siria is now polluted with heavy metals, like arsenic, lead, and mercury, all of which are a product of the exploitation of natural resources by Goldcorp. …(Goldcorp has also) gravely violated this right to health in Valle de Siria. Of the 42,000 inhabitants of Valle de Siria, 80 percent have had their health affected as a consequence of the activities of Goldcorp.”

Mining at San Martin was suspended in 2008, but the health and water impacts of its operations continue today. Many are also concerned, following the June 2009 military coup, that Goldcorp may now re-open and expand their San Martin mine.

There are also concerns how a Canada-Honduras FTA would give additional rights to Canadian mining companies in Honduras. For example, in 2007 the Ministry of Environment in El Salvador denied another Vancouver-based company, Pacific Rim, the permits needed for their El Dorado gold mine based on environmental and water pollution concerns. In retaliation, the company (through its US-based subsidiary) launched a $77 million US-Central America Free Trade Agreement investor-state challenge in 2008. That challenge, in the words of Pacific Rim, “is expected to proceed during fiscal year 2012 and beyond.”

To read Stuart Trew’s March 2011 blog on the Canada-Honduras FTA, please go to http://canadians.org/tradeblog/?p=1380. To read about Maude Barlow’s recent visit to the community near the Goldcorp Marlin mine in Guatemala, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?p=10419.