San Martin, Honduras
The San Martin mine was located in the Siria Valley, a region North of the department of Francisco Morazán that includes the municipalities of San Ignacio, Cedros and El Porvenir, and includes 40 thousands residents[i]. In 1995, Minerales Entre Mares, at the time a subsidiary of Glamis Gold, began extraction from the mine after relocating the village of Palo Ralo. In 2006, Goldcorp bought Glamis Gold[ii].
While the Siria Valley Environmental Committee opposed the mine from the beginning, many local residents were impressed by promises of jobs and new houses[iii]. However, as detrimental health effects including hair loss, skin rashes and diseases, eye irritations, blood contamination, organ failure, respiratory complications and cancers started appearing due to the use of heavy metals in the mining process, resistance gathered strength[iv]. In 2010, five year-old Lesly Yaritza from Nueva Palo Ralo died; she suffered from progressive acute motor paralysis in the lower limbs and showed dangerous levels of arsenic and lead in her blood[v]. Animals have also been poisoned by the contaminated water[vi] which greatly affected the local economy based on livestock and agriculture. Moreover, of the eighteen riverbeds that provided water to the communities, fifteen were completely dry as of late 2009. Many people migrated to the United-States in search of better living conditions[vii].
In 2011, 18 members of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee were charged for obstructing a forest management plan. Many Honduran organizations were concerned by the legal system’s role in the criminalization of human rights advocates[viii].
Beginning in 2008, Goldcorp implemented a mine reclamation program. However, a 2009 report by two scientists from Newcastle University concluded that the lack of detail in Goldcorp’s mine closure plan “makes it difficult to assess thoroughly whether the measures proposed will be effective over the medium to long-term”[ix]. Following the release of the report, Honduran authorities filed criminal charges against Entre Mares’ officials in August 2010 for failing to act on evidence of pollution[x].
In 2011, the cover-up of evidence by the Honduran government of acid waters in the Siria Valley and of human poisoning was revealed; the information had been known since 2007. After four years, the government, on the reported knowledge of Goldcorp, went to see the 62 individuals whose blood and urine had been tested in 2007, asking them to sign what seemed to be waiver papers while offering them to be treated at the public hospital in Tegucigalpa[xi]. The Siria Valley Environmental Committee keeps reiterating its demands for a comprehensive medical care programme to attend the health needs of all people affected by the mine and the complete cancelation of all mining concessions held by Goldcorp in Honduras[xii]. Yet, the Honduran government concluded that Goldcorp was not responsible for any environmental contamination and the company has not presented any further remedial measures than those in the mine closure plan. The dangerous acid drainage caused by Goldcorp, if not rectified, will affect the Siria Valley for centuries, as more heavy metals continue to be released into the environment[xiii].
[i] (2013). “Entremares se llevó el oro provocando muerte, enfermedad y pobreza.” ConexiHon. from http://conexihon.info/site/noticia/derechos-humanos/conflicto-agrario-y-minero-investigaciones/entremares-se-llev%C3%B3-el-oro.
[ii] Nolasco, S. Ficha de Registro Impactos Negativos de la minería en Centroamérica: San Martín, CEICOM.
[iii] Carroll, R. (2009). “Gold giant faces Honduras inquiry into alleged heavy metal pollution.” The Guardian. from http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/31/goldcorp-honduras-pollution-allegations.
[iv] (2012). “Goldcorp “Exports” to Honduras and Guatemala: An International, Judge-led Commission is Needed to Investigate Harms and Violations.” Rights Action. from http://www.rightsaction.org/action-content/goldcorp-exports-honduras-and-guatemala-international-judge-led-commission-needed-1.
[v] Almendarez, J. (2011). “Goldcorp (Entre Mares) & the Government of Honduras Hide Information about Systemic Contaminations in Children and Adults.” Health Tribunal. from http://healthtribunal.org/resources/reports-2/.
[vi] Carroll, R. (2009). “Gold giant faces Honduras inquiry into alleged heavy metal pollution.” The Guardian. from http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/31/goldcorp-honduras-pollution-allegations.
[vii] Carlos Amador, J. T. (2006). “Carta de las comunidades directamente afectadas por las actividades mineras de Glamis Gold en Guatemala y Honduras a los inversionistas y accionistas de la misma.” MiningWatch Canada. From http://www.miningwatch.ca/fr/node/4586.
[viii] (2011). “Solicitud para poner alto a la criminalización de los defensores y las defensoras del medioambiente en Honduras.” CDHAL. from http://cdhal.org/es/comunicados/solicitud-poner-alto-criminalizacion-defensores-defensoras-del-medioambiente-honduras.
[ix] Adam Jarvis, J. A. (2009 ). Technical review of mine closure plan and mine closure implementation at Minerales Entres Mares San Martin mine, Honduras. UK, Newcastle University.
[x] (2010). “Goldcorp staff face criminal charges over mine pollution in Honduras.” CAFOD. from http://www.cafod.org.uk/News/Campaigning-news/Goldcorp-pollution.
[xi] Karen Spring, G. R. (2011). “The Real Cost of Gold in Honduras – Goldcorp & Honduran Regime Cover-Up Blood & Urine Testing & Poisoning at “San Martin” Mine.” Rights Action. from http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=10901.
[xii] Carlos Amador, G. R. (2013). “Endemic Health Crisis in the Siria Valley (Honduras), Caused Assuredly by Goldcorp Inc.” Rights Action. from http://www.rightsaction.org/action-content/endemic-health-crisis-siria-valley-honduras-caused-assuredly-goldcorp-inc.
[xiii] (2011). “Cover-up: Goldcorp (Entre Mares) & the Government of Honduras hide information about poisoning of children and adults.” Rights Action. from http://www.rightsaction.org/action-content/cover-goldcorp-entre-mares-government-honduras-hide-information-about-poisoning.