A letter was written February 6, 2012 to Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird. It was signed by five Members of Parliament (MPs), all members of the Official Opposition with the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Official Opposition Critics for the portfolios of Foreign Affairs, Finance, International Cooperation, Human Rights, and International Trade. As a result of information they have received from Canadian and Honduran NGOs, they express their concern regarding the new mining law currently before the Honduran Congress:
This new mining law comes only a few months after the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement negotiations were concluded on August 12, 2011. We understand that this bill was drafted quickly as a result of significant pressure from investors and that there was little consultation with Honduran civil society organizations. This is taking place within a context of a human rights crisis, including threats and attacks on activists and journalists in Honduras.
Given that mining is central to the Canada-Honduras FTA and Canada is the second largest foreign investor in Honduras, we are concerned about reports that Canadian mining companies wishing to invest in Honduras under the FTA may have been involved in lobbying for this legislation. We understand that the process of drafting this legislation was carried out with little transparency. Furthermore, Canadian and Honduran civil society organizations have suggested that this bill puts the interests of investors before those of communities affected by mining.
We would like to draw your attention to several problems in this bill that have been highlighted by Canadian NGOs, including Development & Peace, Rights Action, and Mining Watch, and their NGO partners in Honduras:
- The bill does not ban open pit mining, a practice that uses cyanide to extract ore and that has caused significant environmental damage in the past.
- The bill fails to protect communities’ right to clean water.
- The bill offers significant tax breaks to investors that will deprive the state of legitimate revenue.
- The bill makes it easier for companies to obtain mining concessions and more difficult for communities to have concessions cancelled.
- The bill also restricts access to information about mining activities, making this available only to government officials and not to the general public.
A copy of the original letter is available here.