MICLA

McGill Research Group Investigating
Canadian Mining in Latin America

Haiti

Key Data

Population:9,801,664 people Area:27,751 km2 Density:353 people / km2 Demographics:Black: 95%
Mulatto and white: 5%
Mineral Resources: GDP:$7.4 billion GDP per capita:$754 GINI:60

History

Colombus dubbed the island of present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic “Hispaniola,” and quickly set out to find riches with which to repay the Spanish monarchs to whom he was indebted. The brutal enslavement of the indigenous population to mine for gold contributed to their obliteration. When the main mines were exhausted, many Spaniards departed, opening the island for French colonization. The devastating ecological repercussions of the plantation agriculture economy the French developed remain, and increase large-scale mining’s potential to result in environmental harm. [1]

Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, North American mining corporations perpetuated the legacy of exporting Haiti’s natural resources. Bauxite was once Haiti’s second leading export. [2] Reynolds Haitian Mines Metals Inc., an American company, exploited the aluminum ore from 1957 until the mine was forced to close in 1982 because of declining ore grades, high production costs, and the saturation of the international market. [3] A Canadian company, Sedren S.A., exploited copper from 1960 until it became unprofitable and operations were suspended in 1971. [4] Prior to the 2006 federal elections, Canadian mining companies largely stayed clear of Haiti’s political violence and recurring coups. [5] The colonial legacy of exploiting Haiti’s riches continues.

 

Mining Characteristics

The deforestation of as much as 95% of Haiti’s forests due to the colonial economy and legacy of poverty exacerbates large-scale mining’s potentially harmful environmental effects. Less than 2% of Haiti is forested. [6] Trees hold soil in place; as much as one third of Haitian soil may have eroded beyond recovery. [7] The ground’s capacity to absorb precipitation has been severely reduced, exposing Haiti to periodic draughts and landslides during heavy rains. Haiti lies in the middle of the hurricane belt, so severe storms are common. [8] The country also experiences earthquakes on occasion due to its position on two fault lines, one of which is in close proximity to the capital, Port-au-Prince. [9]

The massive amounts of water and the toxic chemicals industrial-scale mining employs threatens to add insult to injury. In spite of large-scale mining’s potentially catastrophic repercussions, mining and exploration permits have been awarded to foreign corporations without Haitians’ informed consent since the United Nations’ Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) began in 2004. [10] The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) conducted extensive exploration from 1972 to 1985 in an effort to assist Haiti’s economic development. [11] Gold, silver, and copper deposits exist in the Massif du Nord, a mineralized belt in the north of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. [12]

Eurasian Minerals (EMX), a Canadian company, has exploration licenses for nearly 10% of Haitian land. [13] A 2007 article published in The Northern Miner quotes EMX’s president and CEO, David Cole: “we love to get into areas that have excellent geology but also have perceived political turmoil, so that there’s limited competition.” [14] EMX’s exploratory work is financed by Newmont Mining [15], a Canadian corporation that has been accused of committing human rights violations at Yanacocha in Peru, among others (?). {links}

One month after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake near Port-au-Prince devastated Haiti in 2010, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) invested CDN $5.3 million to bolster EMX’s exploration, particularly within Haiti. [16] EMX’s project manager for Haiti believes “mining is one of the few industries that really has the potential to contribute to developing societies . . . We’re putting in a huge effort: a lot of foreign companies would bring in their own staff, but our staff — which is only nine people, but still — our whole operation is run by nationals.” [17]

Another Canadian company, Majescor Resources, purports “mining could act as an important catalyst for creating sustainable socio-economic development.” [18] The company’s SOMINE property, adjacent to EMX-Newmont holdings in the Massif du Nord, contains one gold and two copper prospects. [19] The project was abandoned in 1999 despite promising exploration work. [20] The chair of the board of St. Genevieve Resources, then-owner of the property, claims partisans of ex-president Aristide threatened employees at gunpoint. [21] The 2006 elections elicited renewed activity in Haiti’s potential mining industry. [22]

Economic Context

In terms of GDP per capita, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. 52% of the country lives in abject poverty. [23] In 2010, unemployment was estimated at over 40%. Over half of the government’s budget is derived from remittances from the diaspora. [24] After the 2010 earthquake, Haiti’s debt was forgiven and development projects have been promoted – mining, in particular – in order to spur recovery. According to the USGS, the sector “generated only between about 0.3% and 0.5% of the total value generated by the other industries of Haiti’s primary sector (agriculture, forestry, livestock, and fisheries) since at least 1996,” but as long as some semblance of political stability is maintained, development will likely continue. [25] 

Political Context

In 2007, Transparency International ranked Haiti as the most corrupt country in the world. It’s ranking has improved slightly since,

In 2004 an armed rebellion forced the resignation and exile of then-President Aristide. About 8,000 UN peacekeepers have maintained civil order since then. Under the auspices of the UN, a democratic government was inaugurated in 2006 after elections were repeatedly postponed due to violence and technical delays. In 2010 the country was devastated by a massive earthquake near Port-au-Prince, (CIA World Factbook).

In a 2011 submission to the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR), several Haitian civil society groups stated that, “in Haiti’s current economic and political climate, previously-created environmental impact assessment legislation and guidelines are rarely enforced. Without a viable environmental impact assessment procedure in place, the citizens of Haiti will not be allowed, nor able, to participate in environmental decision-making processes surrounding the extractive sector that have significant impacts upon the land and resources of local communities.” [1] Haiti’s Minister of the Interior claims “[the] government is doing its part to provide the political will and robust regulatory framework that will insure the projects are well managed and investments are secure.” [2]

According to Alex Turkletaub, managing director of Frontier Strategy Group, a consulting firm that advises mining companies, most mining executives assume Haiti’s “proximity to the United States and its relatively small size mean that they will have a lot of leverage as large players in a small economy, and that the American will always be there to protect against complete disaster.” [2]

In a CKUT radio interview, Marguerite Laurent of the Haitian Lawyer’s Leadership Network questions the integrity of foreign protection and influence and voices skepticism about the Haitian government’s capacity to ensure mining does not ravage the environment yet again. Disaster prone Haiti, with its hurricanes, earthquakes, and landslides, presents serious obstacles to “sustainable” development. Ms. Laurent reinforces the UPR submission’s concern, claiming mining activity since the coup has not respected Haitians’ consultation rights: “These contracts, the so-called conventions with the Bureau of Mines… the people of Haiti don’t know about them,” (http://open.salon.com/blog/ezili_danto/2009/05/12/haitis_richesinterview_with_ezili_dant_on_mining_in_haiti).

 

Haitians told a reporter for the Toronto Star they are “unaware of the environmental catastrophes and social upheaval sometimes associated with gold mining in other poor countries,” (http://www.thestar.com/News/article/238365).

 

Social Context

Discontent is already brewing in La Miel and surrounding countryside.

The sudden appearance last year of Laskowski and his team of Haitian geologists sparked lofty expectations among the local families that the company would bring much-needed development to the area. So far, Eurasian’s small-scale exploration work has resulted in only a few temporary jobs.

“They need to sit down with everyone together to let us know what decision they’ve made for the area. If they don’t do this, we’re not going to let them exploit us as they wish,” says Suzanne Louis, a community leader and wife of a farmer.

Louis and other residents of La Miel say they are unaware of the environmental catastrophes and social upheaval sometimes associated with gold mining in other poor countries.

Laskowski has asked the locals to be patient. In the best of scenarios, he says, it will take from four to six years before any actual mining could begin. By that time, Haiti will have a new government and gold will likely be selling at a different price.

 [] Reed Lindsay, “Haiti’s future glitters with gold,” thestar.com. 2007.07.21. <www.thestar.com/News/article/238365>.

Bibliography

[1] James A. Ferguson, Christian Antoine Girault, and Murdo J. MacLeod, “Haiti,” History.com. <http://www.history.com/topics/haiti>.

[2] “History of Mining in Haiti,” VCS Mining LLC. <http://vcsmining.com/mining-history.html>.

[3] “Haiti – Mining,” Library of Congress Country Studies. Data as of Dec. 1989. <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?cstdy:1:./temp/~frd_sodw::>.

[4] “Haiti – Mining,” Encyclopedia of Nations. 2012.<www.nationsencyclopedia.com/Americas/Haiti-MINING.html#b>.

[5] Reed Lindsay, “Haiti’s future glitters with gold,” Toronto Star. 21 Jul. 2007. <www.thestar.com/News/article/238365>.

[6] “Environmental Justice,” sumbission to the Twelfth Session of the Working Group on the United Nations Periodic Review Human Rights Council by the Association Haitienne de Droit de l’Environnement, Environmental Justice Initiative for Haiti, National Lawyers Guild-Environmental Justice Committee. 2011. <http://ijdh.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Final_UPR-Environment_English.pdf>. pp. 6.

[7] Ferguson et. al.

[8] “Haiti – The World Factbook,” Central Intelligence Agency. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ha.html>.

[9] “Haiti sits on two seismic fault lines and a major disaster was expected,” Merco Press South Atlantic News Agency. 15 Jan. 2010. <http://en.mercopress.com/2010/01/15/haiti-sits-on-two-seismic-fault-lines-and-a-major-disaster-was-expected>.

[10] “Haiti – The World Factbook.”

[11] “Environmental Justice”: 6.

[12] Gwen Preston, “Eurasian digging up gold in Haiti,” The Northern Miner. 25 Jun. 2007. <http://www.northernminer.com/issuesV2/VerifyLogin.aspx>.

[13] Richard Badauskas, “Majescor’s move into Haiti gives company a shot at large copper-gold discovery.” 12 Jan. 2011.<http://www.proactiveinvestors.com/companies/news/11250/majescors-move-into-haiti-gives-company-a-shot-at-large-copper-gold-discovery-11250.html>.

[14] “Environmental Justice”: 9.

[15] Susan Wacaster, “The Mineral Industries of the Dominican Republic and Haiti,” USGS 2009 Minerals Yearbook. Oct. 2010. <http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/country/2009/myb3-2009-dr-ha.pdf>.

[16] “Environmental Justice”: 9.

[17] Preston.

[18] “The SOMINE Project, Haiti: Building shareholder value by participating in the development of an emerging and gold and base metal district.” <http://www.majescor.com/uploads/somine-projectoutline[1].pdf?>.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Badauskas.

[21] Jane Louis, “Hunting in Elephant Country: Eurasian Explores Haiti,” Resource Investor.com. 27 Nov. 2007. <http://www.resourceinvestor.com/2007/11/27/hunting-in-elephant-country-eurasian-explores-hait>.

[22] Wacaster.

[23] “Haiti- The World Factbook.”

[24] Ferguson et. al.

[25] Susan Wacaster, “The Mineral Industries of the Dominican Republic and Haiti,” USGS 2010 Minerals Yearbook. Sept. 2011. <http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/country/2010/myb3-2010-dr-ha.pdf>.

 

[1] Encyclopedia of Nations.

[2] USGS.

 

[11] Chris Scott, “Haiti: Bonanza for Foreign Mining Companies,” Interview with Marguerite Laurent, CKUT radio, 90.3 FM, Montreal. 23 January 2010. <http://www.pacificfreepress.com/news/1/5462-haiti-under-the-overburden-a-bonanza-for-foreign-mining-interests.html>.

 

[13] Susan Wacaster, “The Mineral Industries of the Dominican Republic and Haiti,” USGS 2009 Minerals Yearbook. Oct. 2010. <http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/country/2009/myb3-2009-dr-ha.pdf>.

[14] Ibid.

[15]

[] USGS

Mining:

 

 

 

 

[] Reed Lindsay, “Haiti’s future glitters with gold,” thestar.com. 2007.07.21. <www.thestar.com/News/article/238365>.

[9] USGS

[10] “Environmental Justice”: 9.

[11] Louis.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Gwen Preston, “Eurasian digging up gold in Haiti,” The Northern Miner. 25 Jun. 2007. <http://www.northernminer.com/issuesV2/VerifyLogin.aspx>.

[14] “The SOMINE Project, Haiti: Building shareholder value by participating in the development of an emerging and gold and base metal district.” Accessed 2012.03.02. <http://www.majescor.com/uploads/somine-projectoutline[1].pdf?>.

[15] Badauskas.

[16] Lindsay.

Political:

[1] “Environmental Justice”: 9.

[2] “Haiti – Economy : Investment opportunities in the mining and ecotourism sectors.” HaitiLibre 2012.01.03. <http://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-5061-haiti-economy-investment-opportunities-in-the-mining-and-ecotourism-sectors.html>.

[3] Lindsay.