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UPDATE: Harper endangers right to water with mining law in Honduras

This past week we saw another example of the Harper government promoting mining injustice in Latin America and contributing to likely violations of the United Nations-recognized human right to water.

Jen Moore of MiningWatch Canada writes, “On Wednesday, January 23, 2013, the Honduran Congress quickly passed and ratified a new mining law that had been developed with support from the Canadian International Development Agency against the will of important sectors of Honduran society. The only step that remains is for the law to be published in the official Gazette, which could take place as early as next week. Once published, it will enter into effect and a moratorium on new mining concessions that been in place since 2006 will end. It is anticipated that this will be followed by an accelerated process to approve some 300 mining concessions, and that another 154 concessions that have already been approved will become active.”

In terms of the right to water, Moore notes the Honduran National Coalition of Environmental Networks concern that under the new law, “Water sources that communities depend upon are left unprotected, except for those that have been declared and registered, which are a minority. This puts at grave risk the survival and economic sustenance of peasant farmer communities.”

And she highlights, “This is true disaster capitalism in which the Canadian government has played an entirely self-interested role. In 2009, Honduran civil society had achieved a proposed mining law that had it passed would have incorporated their proposals. But this was shoved aside following the June 2009 military-backed coup of then President Mel Zelaya and never debated. …The Canadian Embassy, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and CIDA have all gotten involved in lobbying for and providing assistance toward a law that would be satisfactory to Canadian industry, such as the one that passed (on January 23).”

Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams further builds this argument in a March 2012 op-ed in which she wrote, “The proposed law would accelerate the licensing process for new mines in Honduras, including open-pit mines, and simplify the rules for mining companies planning to operate in Honduras. It would also reduce environmental standards and privilege water use by mining companies. At the same time, the new law would open the door for foreign states to become title owners of mining concessions, and it fails to ensure the communities that will suffer the most direct impact from the mining have any meaningful say over mining developments. …It appears that the Canadian government is eager for the deal. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade was involved in bringing the two government officials (from Honduras) to Toronto to attend (a major) mining convention. …In creating this new law, the Honduran government has bent over backwards to meet the needs of Canadian and other mining companies, but has carried out almost no consultations with Honduran civil society and community organizations. …A few days after we left Honduras, the Canadian Embassy in Honduras sponsored a workshop on ‘corporate social responsibility’ at which the ambassador said the Canadian government is working toward ensuring ‘benefits for communities where mines operate’. Yet, the Canadian Embassy remains silent on the human rights abuses committed by mining companies, while playing a prominent role in facilitating high-level meetings for corporations that would be the beneficiaries of this law.”

Moore concludes, “We can anticipate that communities will continue to organize to defend their lands and waters supplies. Also, the National Coalition of Environmental Networks plans to fight this Canadian-backed law through the Honduran courts and will once again be calling for international solidarity in order to urge the court to proceed fairly and expeditiously with their case.”

This MiningWatch Canada commentary can be read at http://www.miningwatch.ca/news/honduran-mining-law-passed-and-ratified-fight-not-over. Jody Williams’ op-ed is at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13904. For the blog ‘UPDATE: Sinking the Harper agenda through our mining injustice campaign’, go to http://canadians.org/blog/?p=16711. To read Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew’s action alert ‘No FTA with Honduras until human rights violations stop’, see http://canadians.org/blog/?p=8191. This coming April 26-29, Canada’s human rights record will be reviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva through the Universal Periodic Review process. To read Blue Planet Project water campaigner Meera Karunananthan’s submission that highlights Canada’s failure to respect the human right to water through Canadian mining operations outside of Canada, go to http://canadians.org/blog/?p=17161.