(Ottawa/Tegucigalpa) A new report outlines the continuing struggle of the Honduran community of Azacualpa to defend the integrity of the town, including a 200-year old cemetery, against the expansion of a Canadian-owned open-pit gold mine.
Mining In a State of Impunity: Coerced Negotiations and Forced Displacement by Aura Minerals in Western Honduras published by MiningWatch Canada and the Honduras Solidarity Network, documents how the Canadian mining companies that have operated the San Andrés mine in western Honduras have continually violated the land rights and communally-held land tenure of affected communities for the last 18 years.
Neither Honduran authorities nor Toronto-based Aura Minerals, now the concession holder and operator of the mine, even acknowledge that the community has such rights. The report notes that “municipal authorities and the mining company make no mention of Azacualpa’s land rights and the details of the original mining concession granted in 1983.”
Aura Minerals is now “negotiating” with Azacualpa to expand the mining operation. The report states, “It’s difficult if not impossible to call this process a “negotiation” as the community is clearly being coerced.” The report’s author, Karen Spring, Honduras Coordinator for the Honduras Solidarity Network, explained, “Community leaders have publicly denounced the presence of Honduran military and police in the so-called ‘negotiations’.”
Spring adds, “This is a clear sign of intimidation in a country with rampant levels of corruption and a high impunity rate. Nineteen residents involved in defending the community cemetery still face trumped up charges and threats of further legal repercussions if they continue to protest the mine’s expansion.”
The report makes a series of recommendations, including calling for a comprehensive legal analysis regarding land tenure and land transfer before “negotiations” move forward or the San Andrés mine expands further, and calling for all six affected communities be fully consulted on whether they agree with the expansion of the mine and the displacement of their cemetery. The report also emphasizes that it is critical to develop and document a better understanding of the history of communities forcibly displaced by the San Andrés mine as the basis for any future discussion.