Monthly Archives: July 2014

Central America’s biggest nickel mine reopens amid violent clashes

Guatemala’s Fenix mine, closed for 30 years, faces disputes over land ownership and lawsuits for gang-rape and murder

theguardian.com,

Fenix mine in Guatemala, July 2014 

The Fenix mine in Guatemala, the biggest in Central America, recently reopened. Photograph: David Hill

The biggest nickel mine in Central America has restarted operations amid violent clashes between indigenous people and security forces, disputes over land ownership, and ongoing lawsuits for gang-rape and murder.

The Fenix mine in Guatemala had been closed for 30 years, and was inaugurated by a recent visit to the site by president Otto Pérez, who called it the biggest investment in the history of the country.

But just one week later a community bordering Fenix known as Lot 8 Chacpayla, who are part of the predominant Maya Q’eqchi’ group in the region, say there were invaded by private security forces working for the firm which runs the mine, Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel, now a subsidiary of the Cyprus-based Solway Investment Group.

Residents of Lot 8, where large nickel ore deposits are believed to lie, and the neighbouring community, Lot 9 Agua Caliente, told the Guardian that about 10 men turned up unannounced, “armed to the teeth”, intent on preventing a meeting from taking place.

“When we asked why they were there, they said they had been asked to protect the lands of the company,” says Lot 9’s Rodrigo Tot. “They said they wouldn’t leave and assumed a position to shoot. They were out in the corridor, but pointed their weapons at us.”

The community say the private security only pulled out the next day after the intervention of a justice of the peace, the decision by the community to spend the night in the surrounding forest, and the arrival of more private security personnel and then the army and police, which led to a tense standoff.

“Don Rodrigo said ‘kill me’ and started to walk towards them,” said Manuel Xó Cú, from the Defensoria Q’eqchi’. “The others said: ‘If you kill Don Rodrigo, you’ll have to kill us all.’ Neither the army nor police wanted to witness any of this. They left. Then the private security went too.”

Tot told the Guardian that people were particularly concerned that there would be a repeat of events in 2007 when Lot 8 residents were violently evicted by company security, the army and police, and 11 Q’eqchi’ women were allegedly gang-raped.

Q'eqchi' man Rodrigo Tot with tear-gas left behind by security forces after a tense stand-off with Tot and other Q'eqchi's during a protest at Fenix mine in Guatemala. 
Q’eqchi’ man Rodrigo Tot with teargas left behind by security forces after a tense standoff with Tot and other Q’eqchi’s during a protest at Fenix mine in Guatemala. Photograph: David Hill

                                                                                                          

                                                                                                   According to Xó Cú and media reports, Lot 8’s recent invasion was followed two weeks ago by an attempt by police and company security to violently evict another Q’eqchi’ community, Nabalija, in actions that involved burning houses, destroying crops and firing teargas at men, women and children.

These latest events follow years of alleged killings, violence, intimidation, harassment and evictions of Q’eqchi’ residents in the Fenix region – many of whom are attempting to obtain legal title to their land and pose a potential obstacle to mining operations.

Three lawsuits are currently ongoing for the 2007 gang-rapes – allegedly committed by company security, the army and police – and for the 2009 murder of Q’eqchi’ man Adolfo Ich Chaman and shooting of German Chub – allegedly committed by company security – who survived but was left paralysed.

Last year a landmark ruling by an Ontario court stated that the lawsuits can proceed to trial in Canada, given that the rapes were allegedly committed when Fenix was owned by Canadian firm Skye Resources and the murder and shooting after Skye had been acquired by another Canadian firm, Hudbay Minerals.

Hudbay says the allegations are “without merit”, calling the Q’eqchi’ people “illegal occupiers” and saying that the 2007 evictions were “implemented under court orders”, that the rape claims are not credible, and that, “based on internal investigations and eyewitness reports, CGN personnel were not involved with [Ich Chaman’s] death.”

Hudbay sold the Fenix mine to Solway in September 2011 after the lawsuits were filed – a move which MiningWatch Canada’s Jennifer Moore describes as Hudbay “bailing out”.

“The context is a militarised, authoritarian regime that is systematically criminalising mining-affected communities in order to put these projects into force,” Moore says. “There have been continual threats against the Q’eqchi’ people around the mine over the last few months.”

“Impunity and repression are the norm in Guatemala and the global mining industry knows this very well,” says Grahame Russell, from US- and Canada-based NGO Rights Action.

Tot told the Guardian that in 2011 Guatemala’s constitutional court ruled in favour of the Q’eqchi’ legal ownership of Lot 9, but to date it has been ignored. Solway, Guatemala’s ministry of defence and the ministry of the interior did not return requests for comment.

SOURCE: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/24/central-american-guatemala-biggest-nickel-mine-reopens-amid-violent-clashes

Guatemalan court rules in favor of indigenous people

Publicado el Jueves, 24 Julio 2014 19:23

By  Christin Sandberg.

A Guatemalan court ruled in favor of the indigenous people of the municipality of Sipacapa. The court says the Guatemalan government must respect the right to information and consultation with the local population before granting any kind of mining permits, according to international conventions. As a consequence the mining permit named ”Los Chocoyos”is illegal, and should be withdrawn.

– This judgment states the obligation of the Guatemalan government to respect the indigenous people’s right to information and consultation before granting mining permits in indigenous territories, in accordance with both United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and International Labour Organization Convention 169.Otherwise they are illegal, said Esperanza Pérez, from the Mayan Council of Sipacapa during a press conference held July 23.

In April 2012 the General Director of the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) granted the local company Entre Mares de Guatemala S.A., a subsidiary of transnational mining company Goldcorp Inc., a prospecting permit, ”Chocoyos”in Sipacapan territory. The permit was given without prior information and consultation with the local people. Since then, Entre Mares has had the permission to study, analyze and evaluate any metals such as, gold, silver, nickel, cobalt, lead and zinc within the region.

On March 24, 2014, the Mayan Council of Sipacapa claimed their collective rights and demanded the cancelation of the mining permit ”Chocoyos”, in a public hearing in an appellate court in Guatemala City.

On Friday, July 18, 2014 they were notified of the judgment. Maximiliano Ambrosio from the Mayan Council of Sipacapa commented it at the press conference, July 23:

– We filed the petition considering the devastating consequences mining activities bring both on community level and to our environment and daily lives. And now, we have received a judgment in favor of the people of Sipacapa which means our territory belongs to us.

The judgment also claims another important point for the local people, which is the court’s recognition of the Mayan Council of Sipacapa representing the people of Sipacapa as a legal part in the case, explained Deny de Leon, legal attorney at Copae, an organization who has accompanied the petition.

– It is a historical and an important political moment when the state of Guatemala through this judgment recognizes the proper organization of the indigenous communities, a collective right, and in this case represented by the Mayan Council of Sipacapa, said Deny de Leon at the press conference.

Located in the northwestern highlands, 300 kilometers from Guatemala City, Sipacapa counts with 18 000 inhabitants and a property title guaranteeing the collective ownership of their territory.

However, ”Chocoyos” is not the only mining project in this area. Already in 1998 the Marlin Mine, which is the biggest goldmine in Guatemalan  territory, was discovered by Montana Exploradora de Guatemala S.A., a subsidiary to the same Goldcorp Inc. In November 2003 the permit for exploitation was granted and shortly afterwards, production process was started, according to information on the company’s website.

The Marlin Mine project is located in a vast territory in the two municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, populated by Maya mam people and Sipacapa. Both mining projects extend approximately 20 square kilometers. The Marlin Mine brings in high revenues to their shareholders, being Goldcorp’s most cost efficient mine worldwide.

In 2005, as the Marlin Mine was preparing to open, the Sipacapan community organized one of the country’s first referendums on whether to allow mining in their communities and collective territory. The answer was a resounding no from 99 per cent of the population. Yet their decision was ignored. In a context of impunity, no international conventions protected the people from continuing state violations of their rights as indigenous communities.

Ever since, a peaceful resistance towards the mining activities, based in the local catholic church, has been constant, but perhaps less visible as time has passed. Due to threats and oppressive acts against individuals who denounce violations of human rights related to the situation around the mining project, sometimes involving workers and security personal from the mining company, people are scared of expressing their views. The mining company has also worked non-stop on promoting their local community projects aimed at contributing to social development.

The expectations on the recent judgment are great.

– In practical terms the legal implications of this judgment include that all preparatory mining activities in the area must stop, said Deny de Leon during the press conference.

He continued:

– The next step for the people of Sipacapa is to bring the results from the 2005 referendum, according to ILO Convention 169, to the General Director of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, for him to take into consideration. Thereafter the permit shall be suspended and the territory returned to its proper collective land holder, the local Mayan Sipacapense people.

Eliu Orozco from the Mayan People’s Council (CPO) commented:

– This judgment is an important success in the process of legal actions taken by local communities articulated through the Mayan People’s Council. Taking legal actions is a strategy to ensure that international conventions, both United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and International Labour Organization Convention 169 are respected in Guatemala.

The mining company Entre Mares de Guatemala S.A. has not been available for comment.

SOURCE: http://www.cpo.org.gt/index.php/articulos/168-guatemalan-court-rules-in-favor-of-indigenous-people

Indigenous group delays Buru

BURU Energy has failed to secure the backing of a key indigenous group in Western Australia’s Kimberley region for the company’s plans to explore for shale gas using the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”.
                                                                                                                                                                       The Yawuru Native Title Holders Aboriginal Corporation voted against Buru’s plan to frack two wells at Yulleroo, 80km east of Broome. The vote followed a submission to a WA parliamentary inquiry in which the Yawuru, led by respected elder Patrick Dodson, said it opposed fracking on its traditional lands because of fears that the practice could contaminate water supplies.The group said on Friday that if Buru Energy still decided to proceed with fracking on its land, the explorer “must agree to meet environmental, cultural, social and economic conditions set by Yawuru”. Because Buru’s exploration permits have been granted, the Yawuru do not have the right to negotiate under the Native Title Act and the group has no legal basis to veto Buru’s activities.But the decision is still a setback for Perth-based Buru, which has previously promised not to go ahead with fracking unless it has broad community support.

Buru spokesman Jon Ford said there was “strong support” for Buru’s plans to create jobs and boost WA’s domestic gas supply. “Buru Energy respects the Yawuru traditional owners and we will address their concerns,” he said.

“They are one of our many important stakeholders and we look forward to continuing to work with the Yawuru community long into the future.”

Last month, Buru won the support of the Yungngora native title holders at Noonkanbah, 320km east of Broome. The group said an independent expert’s report had found Buru’s fracking plan had found the project would be a “very low risk” to their country.

Buru is the most advanced of the listed companies working in the onshore Canning Basin, which has been identified as the most prospective region for unconventional gas in the world outside the US, with about 229 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Fracking involves drilling into the earth before a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals is injected to free gas from rocks deep underground. But some claim there is a risk that the chemicals can leak into aquifers and pollute the groundwater.

Buru last week told the ASX it had been forced to defer the $40 million fracking program until March next year due to delays in obtaining government approvals.

The Yawuru decision came a day after a Kimberley-wide meeting of Aboriginal leaders called on the WA government for a moratorium on fracking until more information was available to help make an informed decision. Wayne Bergmann, chief executive of KRED Enterprises, which works with traditional owners to develop Aboriginal businesses, said he was concerned about a lack of information on whether fracking could be done safely.

SOURCE: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/indigenous-group-delays-buru/story-e6frg8zx-1226995374931

Killings at UK-owned Tanzanian gold mine alarm MPs

Call for action after claims of four deaths this year at controversial North Mara site run by African Barrick Gold

A villager searches for gold in discarded waste rock from Barrick Gold's north Mara mine in Tanzania

A villager searches for gold in discarded waste rock from Barrick Gold’s north Mara mine in Tanzania. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Killings at a British-owned gold mine in east Africa have alarmed a group of MPs, lawyers and human rights campaigners, who have called on the British government to intervene.

The all-party parliamentary group on international corporate responsibility met last week to discuss incidents at a Tanzanian mine run by African Barrick Gold (ABG), amid unconfirmed allegations that four people may have been killed there this year.

Lisa Nandy MP, who chairs the group, said: “In the past six years we know that 16 people have been shot dead by the Tanzanian police, which indicates that this is a major problem.”

The British firm is a subsidiary of Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp and has been embroiled in years of controversy over how it handles security at North Mara, an open-pit gold mine in the far north of Tanzania.

It sits in the middle of a group of seven villages, which are home to 70,000 people, most of whom live in poverty and prospect for specks of the precious metal in the waste dumps and pits of the mine as a way of survival.

Villagers, including one man who has been left disabled and the relatives of six men who were killed, are suing ABG in the UK high court, represented by British law firm Leigh Day, alleging that Tanzanian police officers shot unarmed locals. The claimants say the company is responsible because the police are an integral part of the mine’s security.

Last year ABG paid compensation to 14 women who were sexually assaulted by police and security guards at the mine.

Shanta Martin, a partner at Leigh Day, said: “The numbers who have been shot and injured on the mine is just extraordinary. In 2014 we should be sending the message to all that there is no place to hide if you violate human rights. We would expect any British company to operate to the same standards in the most remote corner of the world as they would do operating in the UK. The mine’s own security are not armed with live ammunition; they have teargas and non-live projectiles. But they are commonly accompanied by police who do carry live ammunition, and use it.”

Tricia Feeney, executive director at human rights group Rights and Accountability in Development (Raid), which has called on ABG investors to question the death toll at the mine, told the meeting: “The human rights record of Tanzania is astonishingly bad. No one should rely on Tanzanian police to enforce security. The British government has signed up to protect human rights, so why doesn’t it incentivise good behaviour? They are not taking this seriously at all.”

She said that every day, hundreds of men and women continued to go to the mine to collect rocks that they hoped contained tiny amounts of gold, something locals had done since before the open mine was established in the area. She rejected ABG’s recent adoption of a voluntary code of practice and assurances it was taking allegations seriously. “I can’t see any major change in the way it deals with this problem,” she said.

Lisa Nandy, who chairs the parliamentary group on corporate responsibility, said the North Mara mine

Lisa Nandy, who chairs the parliamentary group on corporate responsibility, said the North Mara mine had ‘a major problem’. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian A representative of ABG told the Observer that the company had not been able to attend the meeting at Westminster, having been invited only the day before it took place. He said ABG was keen to arrange a meeting between the all-party group and chief executive Brad Gordon, who has been credited with trying to address community tensions.

“African Barrick Gold is vigorously defending itself against Leigh Day’s lawsuit, which currently involves 10 claimants,” the spokesman said. “We are deeply saddened by any injury or loss of life at our operations. The company is committed to addressing legitimate grievances in an open and transparent way, but we will not compensate illegitimate claims or lawsuits.”

He added: “While some local people conduct legitimate artisanal mining in areas near North Mara, of greater concern is highly organised trespass on to the mine site. This often involves hundreds or even thousands of illegal, armed and violent intruders systematically stealing gold-bearing rocks and other property from the mine. In 2013, there was a 35% reduction in the number of illegal miners on site compared with 2012. This reduction follows five years of consecutive increases in the number of intruders on site.

“As a company, we are committed to ensuring that all precautionary measures are taken in order to prevent any incidents between intruders and the police. It is only in very rare cases and extreme circumstances and when all alternatives have been exhausted that the police intervene in confrontation with intruders. We regret any loss of life at the mine and continually strive to improve relations with local community members to reduce instances of trespass.

“In addition to community investments, we have continued to train our staff to ensure they are prepared and equipped to manage situations that arise whilst ensuring we fully comply with the UN voluntary principles on security and human rights,” he said.

To date, 31 men and 24 women have accepted remedy packages in response to grievances involving allegations regarding the use of force by mine security or police against intruders.

SOURCE: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/19/killings-uk-owned-gold-mine-tanzania-concern?CMP=twt_gu

No Small Coup: The Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement

SOURCE: http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/miningwatch/2014/07/no-small-coup-canada-honduras-free-trade-agreement

Honduras deal: Another example of Canada’s poor record on trade and human rights

Commercial interests have again trumped human rights concerns, like they did three years ago with the Colombia trade deal.
Embassy Photo: Sam Garcia

Honduran Industry and Commerce Minister Jose? Adonis Lavaire and Trade Minister Ed Fast pose during the signing of a joint trade deal on Nov. 5, 2013 in Ottawa.

Bill Fairbairn, Tara Ward, Stacey Gomez Published: Wednesday, 07/09/2014 12:00 am EDT

Despite compelling testimony provided over the past year that emphasized the dire human rights situation in Honduras, the act to implement the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement quietly passed its third reading in the Senate in June and received royal assent.

This is déjà vu for many Canadian civil society organizations engaged in Latin America. Once again, commercial interests have sadly trumped human rights concerns, just like they did three years ago with the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, or the CCOFTA.

The Colombia deal was implemented in the midst of continued human rights violations and ongoing armed conflict that began five decades ago and that has claimed the lives of at least 220,000 Colombians, mostly civilians.

Canada’s record with the Colombian trade deal and the passing of the new Honduran agreement speak volumes about the Canadian government’s disinterest both in specific human rights concerns and in the real potential that Canadian commercial activities will in fact exacerbate the crises in these countries.

In May, for a third consecutive year, the Canadian government failed in its legal obligation to monitor the human rights effects of the Colombia deal. This year’s report made only passing reference to the human rights situation in Colombia and said nothing about continuing assaults on lives and lands, particularly in areas coveted by third parties for their economic potential.

Instead, the report focused narrowly on tariff reductions and trade flows, ignoring links between investment and human rights. The government’s conclusion: “It is not possible to establish a direct link between the CCOFTA and the human rights situation in Colombia.”

All three reports to date have lacked independence, transparency and the inclusive participation of communities directly affected by the deal.

Honduras

It is with a similar lack of transparency over and engagement with human rights concerns that Parliament passed the new agreement with Honduras.

Since the 2009 military coup d’état in Honduras, citizens have experienced high levels of state repression, spiralling violence, the almost complete failure of all governmental institutions and rule of law as well as skyrocketing poverty levels.

This troubling reality was brought to the attention of parliamentarians on numerous occasions.Pablo Heidrich of the North-South Institute told the House of Commons trade committee that levels of violence are actually increasing in Honduras with an average of 20 murders per day, compared with two murders per day in Canada, which has four times more population.

Despite the complicity of post-coup governments in Honduras’ current crisis, the Canadian government has demonstrated unwavering political support. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the first foreign head of state to travel to Honduras in August 2011 after it was reinstated to the Organization of American States, when he announced the trade deal.

The Canadian government, many members of Parliament, senators and industry representatives have frequently asserted that the trade deal will improve conditions for Hondurans. Unable to negate the troubling human rights situation in Honduras, they have repeated the false dichotomy that we can either “engage” with Honduras through a free trade agreement or “isolate” the country without one.

Yet during parliamentary hearings, MPs repeatedly heard that the principal beneficiaries of the trade agreement would be a select group of Canadian investors in the mining, textile and tourist sectors, and not the poor majority in Honduras. Ricardo Grinspun of York University stated, “what are required are policies to strengthen state initiatives in the social sector, including education, training, promotion of small enterprises, and protecting labour and social rights. Many of these aspects are not part of the FTA. The strengthening of investors’ rights by disregarding other rights actually works in the opposite direction.”

Heidrich further testified to Parliament: “In general, the international…experience of using FTAs as leverage is not very successful, not even for countries that have a much bigger domestic market to offer access to, such as the [United States] or again the [European Union], or Japan.”

The Colombian deal’s grossly flawed human rights reporting mechanism obscures any official recognition of the displacement and loss of lives occurring in Colombia in order to benefit big business.

A similar trade agreement with Honduras will again give corporations access to the strongest investor protection mechanism around-private international arbitration-while communities pay with their lives and lands.

In light of our experience with the Colombian deal and the repeated concerns expressed by our Honduran partners, we believe Canada should not have signed a trade deal with Honduras and we still call upon the Canadian government to fulfill its human rights obligations.

Hondurans just marked the grim fifth anniversary of the coup on June 28, reminding us that Canada’s foreign policy, aid and trade strategy must be revised to put human rights first, not investor rights above all else.

Bill Fairbairn and Tara Ward are co-chairs, and Stacey Gomez is the co-ordinator of the Americas Policy Group, a working group of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation focused on development and social justice issues in the Americas.

SOURCE: http://www.embassynews.ca/opinion/2014/07/09/honduras-deal-another-example-of-canada%E2%80%99s-poor-record-on-trade-and-human-rights/45781

Courtesy of Militarized Commerce — Corporate Accountability

Dying kids in Jharkhand’s Jadugora, uranium mines and a mystery

What’s causing the wasting diseases that are deforming so many children in the hub of India’s uranium mining industry?

First Published: Wed, Jul 09 2014. 10 44 AM IST

Dying kids in Jharkhand’s Jadugora, uranium mines and a mystery

The Uranium Corp site in Jharkhand. The Ranchi high court noted in February after filing a petition against Uranium Corp. of India that children living near the mines are born with swollen heads, blood disorders and skeletal distortions.

 

New Delhi: On a sun-seared afternoon, Sanjay Gope crawls across a dusty courtyard of the low-slung, mud-walled house he shares with 10 members of his family. Stacks of cow dung dry in the heat and chickens rest in the shade.

His grandfather, Debnandan Gope, watches glumly as the boy struggles, face streaked with sweat, one thin forearm, then another, digging into the dirt, his legs and feet carving a winding trail behind him.

About 10 years old — ages in India’s villages are often estimates — Sanjay could move normally as a toddler until seizures began to wring the life from his arms and legs. Now, when no family member can assist him, he’s left to crawl around the ground like a snake, his grandfather said.

That would be dispiriting enough save for the omen it conjures. An older sister, Sunita, experienced a similar collapse. Her limbs grew so deformed that she couldn’t feed or bathe herself before she died two years ago at 13.

Across the path that runs by Sanjay’s house, Rakesh Gope, a member of Sanjay’s tribe although no direct relation, sits on a dirt floor under the rusting corrugated roof of an open-air room where his grandfather is sleeping. A slight boy with light brown eyes, he attempts to wave but his hands only flap in a spastic flurry. He’s another 10-year-old unable to walk on his own.

No one knows exactly how many children like this live here and in nearby villages — only that they are all too easy to find.

Troubling portrait

Sanjay and Rakesh live near Jadugora, a town of 19,500 people about 1,370km from New Delhi in Jharkhand. Once ringed by lush tribal forests, Jadugora is today a troubling portrait of modern India, its outskirts a postcard of pastel-painted mud houses scattered amid tidy rice fields, its center the hub of India’s uranium mining industry that is fueling an unprecedented nuclear power boom.

It’s here that state-run Uranium Corp. of India Ltd is licensed by the Indian government to gouge hundreds of thousands of tonnes of uranium ore out of the ground each year, while just over a hill, an easy walk from the village, 193 acres of ponds holding mildly radioactive waste stand largely unguarded save for no-trespassing signs.

Mystery disease

For years, these desperately poor people living in scattered villages in the shadow of these mines have been tormented by a mystery: What’s causing the wasting diseases that are deforming and killing so many of their children?

Sanjay’s 70-year-old grandfather, a bare-chested, barefoot man rendered lean by hard work and a sparse diet, offers an observation shared by many here — that before the mines came, children did not crawl around in the dirt and die. He might be dismissed as an illiterate, grieving relative of a crippled boy and a dead girl except that outsiders, including the Jharkhand high court and environmental activist groups, suggest he may be right.

In February, the high court in the state capital of Ranchi filed a petition that pointed to the mines operated by Uranium Corp. since 1967. Shocked by photographs of the area’s sick and deformed children in the Indian press, the court ordered the company and relevant government agencies to explain what measures they were taking to protect the health of those living in villages around the mines.

‘Health problems’

The health problems related to uranium mining are affecting the indigenous people disproportionately in and around the uranium mining operational area, with as many as 50,000 people at risk, the court wrote.

Children living near the mines, the court added, are born with swollen heads, blood disorders and skeletal distortions. Cancer as a cause of death is more common in villages surrounding uranium operations.

The high court isn’t alone in its concerns. In 2007, an Indian physicians group published survey results showing villagers near the mines reported levels of congenital deformities and deaths from such deformities far higher than those 20 miles away.

In 2008, the Jharkhandi Organization Against Radiation, a local activist group, collected water samples from 10 Jadugora- area locations, including wells and streams. Seven were shown to have unsafe levels of heavy metals—including lead, a byproduct of uranium mining, and mercury.

Affidavits filed

Bloomberg News reporters in June took water samples at two sites. Results from an independent testing laboratory found mercury and lead levels within acceptable government guidelines. The lab did find a potentially problematic reading for uranium in water that could make its way into local wells.

In response to the high court’s petition, Uranium Corp. and government agencies in March and April filed 337 pages of affidavits and exhibits, obtained by Bloomberg News and never before made public, amounting to a categorical denial by the company that it bears responsibility for Jadugora-area health issues. A similar query in 2004, one company document said, was dismissed for lack of evidence before the Supreme Court.

The affidavits also included a document from a provincial regulatory agency detailing Uranium Corp.-backed studies conducted from 2010 to 2012 in 16 villages involving 4,557 examinations of children and adults that produced no cases of congenital malformation. That included three villages near Jadugora where Bloomberg News reporters easily found children and adults with deformities.

Conventional health problems’

“The villagers suffer from conventional health problems, which could be seen in any village with similar socio-economic condition,” wrote Mahendra Mahto, secretary of the Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board, pointing to the 2010-2012 survey.

The survey wasn’t signed by Mahto but by Dr. U.K. Majhee — identified as Uranium Corp.’s chief medical officer at its Jadugora hospital. He declined to be interviewed when approached at his office. Mahto said in a phone interview that he couldn’t respond now to questions about the survey because he didn’t have the study in front of him. “Unless I see the document, how can I say what I have said and what I have not?” he said.

Diwakar Acharya, Uranium Corp.’s chairman, in a 25 June email to Bloomberg News, repeated the company’s position that its operations in the area do not have any adverse health effects to the surroundings.

Resolving the mystery seems all the more critical considering that some of the water from three Uranium Corp. ponds holding uranium waste known as tailings — treated, the company says, to remove contaminants — empties into the River Gara, which flows past Jadugora and several other villages and is used daily by locals to fish and bathe.

Tailings ponds

Just as worrisome are the ponds themselves. “They cover an area about the size of 146 football fields and are exposed and accessible,” said Nitish Priyadarshi, formerly an assistant professor of geology at Ranchi University and member of the Geological Society of India who researches and writes about Jharkhand mining issues. “There’s a lack of awareness among the people in the area. They should probably be moved but it may be too late.”

Acharya, the Uranium Corp. chairman, in the email response said the company has posted proper warning signs and that it can’t be blamed for trespassers. However, it is to clarify that radiation level in referred area is quite low and short duration exposure has no adverse effect on health, he wrote.

Others are convinced something is amiss. “Deformities are prevalent in the age group born after mining started there,” said M.V. Ramana, a physicist and India nuclear-energy specialist at Princeton University’s Nuclear Futures Laboratory, in Princeton, New Jersey, who has written extensively about Jadugora. “It’s not so among older people. That something is affecting them is very clear. It may be radiation, it may be some other heavy metals that contaminate the water. We don’t know for sure.”

Community meeting

That’s the issue for residents. Neither the company nor any government agency in their memory has conducted the kind of comprehensive study that could get to the bottom of what’s sickening and killing their kids. That would include counting the number of sick and dead and systematically testing for root causes—assembling genetic and medical histories, collating the results of any previous doctors’ exams and testing for environmental factors like water and soil contamination at their homes and villages.

Debnandan Gope recalled a 2009 community meeting at which villagers broached the health issue with Uranium Corp. officials in attendance. “They gave us one samosa, bread and vegetables but no answers, he said. Nothing has happened since. There’s been no help.”

Denials

“Comprehensive and long-term studies should be carried out,” said Ramana, “and at the very least there should be regular monitoring of air and water quality, testing of food and keeping accurate records of diet.”

“That this has never been done is unsurprising,” he said. The predominant reaction on the part of the nuclear establishment in India of ill-health associated with nuclear facilities has been denial or variants thereof.

Officials at India’s Department of Atomic Energy and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare didn’t respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment for this story.

Jadugora’s mines speak to India’s scaled-up nuclear power ambitions, even as Japan’s March 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown has spurred international debate about the safety of atomic energy programmes. Indian officials, facing nationwide power shortages, have said they want to increase nuclear power generation capacity to 62,000 megawatts by 2032. Nuclear energy now provides 1.9% of India’s electricity generation capacity.

Fuel pellets

Uranium Corp., in charge of supplying fuel for that plan, employs about 5,000 people in the mining and processing of uranium, which is the core element in making fuel pellets that fire the reactors in nuclear power plants. Besides its Jadugora-area mines, Uranium Corp. operates the Turamdih mines about 12 miles away, near the city of Jamshedpur, with a metropolitan area population of more than a million people. There have been no comparable reports of illnesses there as in Jadugora and a handful of surrounding villages.

The Turamdih operation began in 2003. New uranium mines are planned in Jharkhand and three other states, according to the Uranium Corp. website.

The Jadugora mines are blocked off by concrete walls and barbed wire. Their gates open for 10-wheel dump trucks, loaded with chunks of uranium ore, rumbling down the road to a central plant. After processing the ore into a powdery compound known as yellowcake, Uranium Corp. transports it to southern India to be made into pellets for atomic power stations.

Leftover tailings

The leftover tailings, in the form of a sand-textured slurry, contain low-levels of long-lasting radiation at about 85% of the radioactivity from the original ore. Uranium Corp. said its tailings are treated with lime to remove heavy metals. A 2011 government report sent to the high court showed that the company’s Jadugora processing plant generates an estimated 2,090 tonnes of mining waste daily, of which 1,000 tonnes is pumped back underground, leaving about 1,090 tonnes of treated slurry to be routed every day into its tailing ponds.

Solids settle to the bottom of the ponds, lined with non-permeable material. The remaining water is routed to a treatment plant before being released, some of it making its way into the Gara.

“The health danger in all uranium mining,” says the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “is that tailings include radioactive elements like radium that decay into a gas called radon linked to lung cancers.”

Primary threat

The primary health threat to humans occurs when radon gas is inhaled or when radioactive elements from tailings leach into public water supplies. Gamma radiation thrown off by elements in tailings can also pose a health hazard to people in the vicinity including genetic mutations that can be passed on to offspring, according to the EPA. Uranium Corp. says that its treatment and disposal standards meet all international safety requirements.

Reporters visiting the dump site in April saw workmen at the tailing ponds repairing one of the metal pipes that carry the mildly radioactive slurry, part of a series of winding metal tubes that stand off the ground on small stilts. A guard in a khaki uniform wandered the area carrying a three-foot wooden stick and absentmindedly waving it in the air.

In the distance, two women in saris strolled up the path leading to the ponds, each carrying a cane basket. No fences block access at the entryway to the ponds area. Locals say they pass in and out of the dump site regularly and it still houses a tribal place of worship.

Water from the pond site flows past a block-lettered sign with the words “PROHIBITED AREA” hand painted in red. It passes by a field used by village children to play soccer, and on to the Gara. Villagers squat at the river’s edge to wash clothes, bathe and fish for food.

Poor community

Jharkhand is a poor place, even by India’s standards. Average annual per capita income is equivalent to about $720 despite the existence of substantial coal and uranium reserves. Debnandan Gope, for example, makes 83 cents a day as a field hand — when he can get work. Illiteracy is common.

People cook on fires fueled by dried cow dung. Women walk the roadsides balancing gleaming metal water jugs on their heads as they go to and from public wells. Village men still plow the land with cattle. Some gather in houses on legs not much more substantial than baseball bats, a result of the meager rice-paste diets common here. Life expectancy is among the lowest in all of India — 58 years compared with 63.5 for the nation as a whole, according to a 2011 United Nations report.

Many scrounge and scavenge to get by — even around uranium dumps. Trespassing signs, assuming they can even be read, don’t mean much.

Six toes

On the sandy banks of the Gara, Chotu Ho pulled plants from its dark, slow moving waters and paused to pluck tiny shrimp and snails off the foliage. A resident of a nearby village, he wore a white sleeveless vest and a lungi. Both of his feet had six toes.

“I know there’s uranium in the water and I may fall ill,” said Ho, holding up his catch for inspection under a bright sun. “You can’t eat this, but we have to. We’re used to it now.”

Debnandan Gope, who once manned the slurry pits as a Uranium Corp. contract worker, still goes into the tailing ponds area, as does his wife, to collect firewood. He recalled his work back then. The sludge came by pipe and it was his job to push the stuff into a pit, about 12 feet wide (3.7 meters) by 12 feet long, with a spade. The next day, he would dig a new pit to fill. Sometimes, when he fell behind, Gope just shoveled it in with his hands.

Slurry pits

The waste was black and smelled burnt, like fireworks. At the end of the day his arms would be caked with a substance that, when dry, glittered. The extent of safety measures, Gope said, was that a supervisor advised him to wash his hands before eating.

He left when his contract expired and now tends small farm plots for his family and others. While he knows that using wood from a site used to store radioactive waste isn’t a good idea, Gope said, Without the firewood how would we cook?

As a precaution, Bloomberg News reporters visiting the site and other areas carried a dosimeter, a hand-held device used to measure radiation in the air. It produced a reading in Bango village, about two miles from the tailings ponds and where Sanjay Gope lives, that converts to 7 millisieverts a year. Normal background radiation is about 3.1 millisieverts a year, according to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Safe levels

Still, the Bango reading is below levels for which there is evidence of human health effects, according to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.

The impact of long-term exposure to lower doses of radiation isn’t well understood.

Uranium Corp. included in its court filings a 2002 study by one of its consultants that showed village area radiation levels at 2.81 millisieverts annually. The company said in its emailed statement to Bloomberg that measuring radiation is a specific skill acquired through qualification and domain knowledge of the subject and that a measurement taken with unknown assumptions is not acceptable.

#The mines, and fears about possible health effects, have sparked only limited protests in the villages. The environmental impact of extractive industries like uranium and coal, twinned with economic straits of locals, have become a rallying cry for Maoist guerrillas in the country’s Red Corridor, a stretch of mining states that include Jharkhand. Maoist attacks targeting police and public officials haven’t stopped the mining.

Sick children

It’s the sick and dying children that have drawn the most concern. During 2007, the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development, an affiliate of Nobel-winning, Massachusetts-based International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, canvassed 2,118 households in five villages within 1.5 miles of the mines.

The surveys found mothers there reporting congenital deformities more than 80% higher than the rates of mothers in villages just 20 miles from the mines. The rate of child deaths reported

from such abnormalities was more than five times as high. Uranium Corp. has dismissed the findings as the biased work of antinuclear groups.

Still, affidavits filed with the high court by the government and the company produced a 1998 survey with participation from Uranium Corp. that found unusual congenital limb anomalies among area residents — though the report said they weren’t radiation-related.

Water samples

The 2008 water samples collected by the Jharkhandi Organization Against Radiation were analyzed by the Centre for Science and Environment, a New Delhi-based environmental research and advocacy group that maintains its own laboratory. A notable finding was in a sample from a village tap meant to supply safe drinking water that contained mercury levels 200% above allowable Indian government limits at the time, according to laboratory results.

Lead found in a well used for drinking water was more than 600% higher than government limits. Uranium Corp.’s chairman said in his email that he wasn’t aware of those tests.

Mercury isn’t a byproduct of uranium mining and the Centre didn’t investigate the reason for its presence. The US Geological Survey says mercury is a ubiquitous element found in small quantities in all rocks, sediments, water, and soils and in higher concentrations in certain local mineral occurrences.

Ingesting lead can cause muscle weakness and brain damage in children, according to the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Mercury’s harmful effects to human fetuses may include brain damage, mental retardation, lack of coordination and seizures.

Uranium levels

The water samples gathered at two sites last month by Bloomberg News — at a stream taking runoff from the tailing pond area and a hand-pumped well in Bango village — came back with significantly lower results than the Centre for Science’s lab found. Mercury and lead levels were below levels the government deems a threat to human health.

The results did show uranium levels from the stream at amounts exceeding World Health Organization (WHO) drinking water guidelines by 33%. Locals don’t typically drink from the stream though the water may feed into local wells from which people do drink, according to Souparno Banerjee, the centre’s outreach director.

The Bloomberg samples were taken to New Delhi in sealed plastic bottles and analyzed by the Shriram Institute for Industrial Research. The institute is among those approved by the government’s Delhi Pollution Control Committee for carrying out such tests.

The high court petition and the studies by the Indian doctors group aren’t the first time Uranium Corp. has been in the news over radiation pollution. A company statement acknowledged pipelines carrying uranium waste from the Jadugora mines burst in December 2006, spilling radioactive slurry into surrounding fields. The company said the accident was attended in the shortest possible time.

‘Radioactive waste’

When flash floods hit in June 2008, sending waste cascading into fields, the Hindustan Times quoted a Uranium Corp. spokesman as saying, the radioactive waste flowing through the village is harmless, as incessant rains have diluted the intensity of radioactivity.

The sick children aren’t hard to find. In a mud house painted green, about 100 steps from Sanjay Gope’s front door, a four-year-old with telltale weakness in his limbs can’t keep his head from flopping to his shoulders. And then there are the deformities.

Next door to Rakesh Gope’s house, 14-year-old Parbati Gope, who has a misshapen chest and back, stands in a narrow alley as her mother Kuni describes their experience with local health care. The doctor said ‘I don’t know what this is, I can’t do anything, take her to the hospital’. Her mother lifted the back of her green tunic to show what looked like a baseball- sized growth underneath her skin.

Forehead indentation

A few minutes’ walk down the road and, behind a courtyard door fashioned by metal cut from mustard-oil tins, Kaliburi Gope, about 20 years old, had similar bulges and an indentation on her forehead. No one can say exactly how many of these cases exist.

Local doctors have examined many of these stricken children in local clinics and the results are a mish-mash of conflicting diagnoses, even for siblings with the same symptoms. Some doctors have blamed polio, though the disease appears to have been eradicated, with India’s last case reported in 2011.

Others point to cerebral palsy, which is a kind of catch-all diagnosis for a debilitating injury to the brain that could have numerous underlying causes including mercury or lead poisoning.

Witch doctor

Sanjay Gope’s case shows how desperate parents are for answers. They called a witch doctor to their home. The man sprinkled red powder on the ground and slit the throats of two of the family’s chickens, letting the blood splash in the dirt before taking the carcasses for himself. He blamed evil spirits.

Sanjay was then taken to the clinic of Dr. Barin Sarkar, a child specialist in Jamshedpur. Dr. Sarkar’s small office is in the ground floor of a house that at night goes dark except for the light of the waiting room. There, mothers from the countryside hug their children and wait their turn, hoping to be seen before the office closes at 9:30pm.

Dr. Sarkar said in an interview he diagnosed Sanjay as having muscular dystrophy. The disease is genetic, inherited through relatives, though no one in Sanjay’s family can recall anyone else suffering from it.

Partially paralyzed

A village homeopathic doctor, Sudhir Nandi, said in an interview that Sanjay’s sister, Sunita, was partially paralyzed by something polio-like. He couldn’t say what exactly killed her. Another local doctor, Hem Chandra Gope, said he examined a 13-year-old girl with similar symptoms and concluded she was taken down by polio. Dr. Gope said he’d seen a few dozen cases like hers in the area, and then changed the number to maybe about 15.

A medical certificate for Rakesh Gope, prepared at one of the medical camps held regularly to evaluate locals en masse, classified his illness as cerebral palsy. A similar certificate for Kaliburi Gope said she had dorsolumbar kyphoscoliosis, a deformity of the spine.

In Potka, about 12 miles from Jadugora and the administrative seat of a block of more than 200 villages that include Sanjay’s, Dr. Rani Kumari Beck splits her time seeing patients between two government health clinics. When reporters caught up with her during a Sunday shift in May, she said she was well aware of Jadugora’s health woes. Our observation — and it is just an observation—is as you move away from the mines the incidence of these diseases decreases, she said.

Rural clinics

Dr. Beck’s view is that the rural health facility isn’t equipped to diagnose much less treat such cases. The physical condition of the clinic seemed to confirm that. A few patients lay on thin mattresses in dark rooms. Abandoned freezers sat rusting outside in front of a dilapidated former doctors’ office occupied by a caretaker, its shutters crooked and chunks of concrete missing from its exterior wall.

Dr. Beck refers children with serious health issues to hospitals in bigger towns. Many families, poor and illiterate, can’t afford that and are left to try to figure things out on their own, visiting a jumble of village holy men and local doctors.

Those who do have cash travel to doctors in Jamshedpur, the nearest actual city, where they collect diagnosis notes written in English, a language most of them can’t read. They take the sheets of doctors’ stationery back home, stuff the paperwork into plastic bags or folders — and are nowhere closer to getting an answer than when they began.

Bags of paperwork

Amitabh Kaushal sits in a modest air-conditioned office behind a large wooden desk, scrolling through his iPad. As deputy commissioner for East Singhbhum District, he is the area’s ranking bureaucrat. He said he’s heard that studies have been done in Jadugora — he’s just never seen them.

“This is what I’m told, but I’ve yet to look at those reports,” said Kaushal. He asked for the details of families Bloomberg reporters had interviewed and noted down their names. “In light of this thing, the information you have just provided, I think fresh studies again are called for — as to correlate whatever data was there earlier and whatever is there today,” Kaushal said. “Such diseases in different families without a common linking factor do require a detailed, serious investigation.”

Kaushal said that he would have more information in seven days but emails and phone calls to him in the weeks following were unreturned.

Company doctor

A visit to Dr. A.K. Pal, another chief medical officer at Uranium Corp.’s Jadugora hospital, produced a similar reaction of puzzlement.

After hearing a description of Sanjay’s and others’ physical conditions, Dr. Pal, who has worked in the area since 1989, said, “I have been to a lot of villages and I will go to more villages for medical camps. I have not seen this.”

He was speaking in a small surgery recovery room during his rounds, reading glasses perched on the end of his nose, a mobile phone holstered to his waist.

“Not a single case?”

“No,” he said.

Sanjay Gope’s family lives just four miles away. And down the road from them, Leda Karmokar, a field labourer lying in a dark, sweltering room without electricity, rises to show visitors to the jumble of rocks in the field that marks the grave of his 11-year-old-daughter, Lali, who died about two years ago. He stands at the grave site beneath an implacable sun on a scorching, windless day, a nearby palm tree pinned against the sky like a still life. Women across the road wash clothes in a pond. Cows graze and twitch at flies in the unrelenting heat.

“Lali never had a chance,” said Karmokar, a man whose weathered visage and missing teeth make plain his poverty. “She couldn’t walk. She couldn’t use her hands. She just crawled around.”

Bloomberg

SOURCE: http://www.livemint.com/Politics/XIPI9uChfRaHeKpFu2GhiK/Dying-kids-in-Jhakhands-Jadugora-uranium-mines-and-a-myste.html

Honduras deal: Another example of Canada’s poor record on trade and human rights

Commercial interests have again trumped human rights concerns, like they did three years ago with the Colombia trade deal.
Embassy Photo: Sam Garcia

Honduran Industry and Commerce Minister Jose? Adonis Lavaire and Trade Minister Ed Fast pose during the signing of a joint trade deal on Nov. 5, 2013 in Ottawa.

Bill Fairbairn, Tara Ward, Stacey Gomez Published: Wednesday, 07/09/2014 12:00 am EDT

Despite compelling testimony provided over the past year that emphasized the dire human rights situation in Honduras, the act to implement the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement quietly passed its third reading in the Senate in June and received royal assent.

This is déjà vu for many Canadian civil society organizations engaged in Latin America. Once again, commercial interests have sadly trumped human rights concerns, just like they did three years ago with the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, or the CCOFTA.

The Colombia deal was implemented in the midst of continued human rights violations and ongoing armed conflict that began five decades ago and that has claimed the lives of at least 220,000 Colombians, mostly civilians.

Canada’s record with the Colombian trade deal and the passing of the new Honduran agreement speak volumes about the Canadian government’s disinterest both in specific human rights concerns and in the real potential that Canadian commercial activities will in fact exacerbate the crises in these countries.

In May, for a third consecutive year, the Canadian government failed in its legal obligation to monitor the human rights effects of the Colombia deal. This year’s report made only passing reference to the human rights situation in Colombia and said nothing about continuing assaults on lives and lands, particularly in areas coveted by third parties for their economic potential.

Instead, the report focused narrowly on tariff reductions and trade flows, ignoring links between investment and human rights. The government’s conclusion: “It is not possible to establish a direct link between the CCOFTA and the human rights situation in Colombia.”

All three reports to date have lacked independence, transparency and the inclusive participation of communities directly affected by the deal.

Honduras

It is with a similar lack of transparency over and engagement with human rights concerns that Parliament passed the new agreement with Honduras.

Since the 2009 military coup d’état in Honduras, citizens have experienced high levels of state repression, spiralling violence, the almost complete failure of all governmental institutions and rule of law as well as skyrocketing poverty levels.

This troubling reality was brought to the attention of parliamentarians on numerous occasions.Pablo Heidrich of the North-South Institute told the House of Commons trade committee that levels of violence are actually increasing in Honduras with an average of 20 murders per day, compared with two murders per day in Canada, which has four times more population.

Despite the complicity of post-coup governments in Honduras’ current crisis, the Canadian government has demonstrated unwavering political support. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the first foreign head of state to travel to Honduras in August 2011 after it was reinstated to the Organization of American States, when he announced the trade deal.

The Canadian government, many members of Parliament, senators and industry representatives have frequently asserted that the trade deal will improve conditions for Hondurans. Unable to negate the troubling human rights situation in Honduras, they have repeated the false dichotomy that we can either “engage” with Honduras through a free trade agreement or “isolate” the country without one.

Yet during parliamentary hearings, MPs repeatedly heard that the principal beneficiaries of the trade agreement would be a select group of Canadian investors in the mining, textile and tourist sectors, and not the poor majority in Honduras. Ricardo Grinspun of York University stated, “what are required are policies to strengthen state initiatives in the social sector, including education, training, promotion of small enterprises, and protecting labour and social rights. Many of these aspects are not part of the FTA. The strengthening of investors’ rights by disregarding other rights actually works in the opposite direction.”

Heidrich further testified to Parliament: “In general, the international…experience of using FTAs as leverage is not very successful, not even for countries that have a much bigger domestic market to offer access to, such as the [United States] or again the [European Union], or Japan.”

The Colombian deal’s grossly flawed human rights reporting mechanism obscures any official recognition of the displacement and loss of lives occurring in Colombia in order to benefit big business.

A similar trade agreement with Honduras will again give corporations access to the strongest investor protection mechanism around-private international arbitration-while communities pay with their lives and lands.

In light of our experience with the Colombian deal and the repeated concerns expressed by our Honduran partners, we believe Canada should not have signed a trade deal with Honduras and we still call upon the Canadian government to fulfill its human rights obligations.

Hondurans just marked the grim fifth anniversary of the coup on June 28, reminding us that Canada’s foreign policy, aid and trade strategy must be revised to put human rights first, not investor rights above all else.

Bill Fairbairn and Tara Ward are co-chairs, and Stacey Gomez is the co-ordinator of the Americas Policy Group, a working group of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation focused on development and social justice issues in the Americas.

SOURCE: http://www.embassynews.ca/opinion/2014/07/09/honduras-deal-another-example-of-canada%E2%80%99s-poor-record-on-trade-and-human-rights/45781

Courtesy of Militarized Commerce — Corporate Accountability

Guatemalan government moves to expel witnesses to police violence at US-Canadian mine site

By Jennifer Moore | July 7, 2014

Last week, Guatemalan authorities informed two Peace Brigades International (PBI) volunteers that their temporary residence permits were cancelled and that they have ten days to leave the country. Both volunteers witnessed a violent eviction on May 23rd at ‘La Puya’ – just north of Guatemala City-, where US-based Kappes, Cassidy & Associates and Vancouver-based Radius Gold are interested in developing the El Tambor mine project.

During the eviction, hundreds of police used tear gas and flash bombs against the communities of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc who have maintained a peaceful blockade at the entrance to the mine project for over two years while they have sought dialogue with Guatemalan authorities to reach a solution. The operation permitted machinery to be forcibly introduced to the mine site. Over twenty people were injured.

“Over the following weeks [after the violent eviction], various articles with defamatory comments against foreigners and international organisations were published in Guatemalan media,” states PBI in an open letter, reproduced in full below. The letter expresses concern “that the cancellation of the temporary residence permits of two of our volunteers may be related to false information on the work of international observation during the eviction which was published by the media.”

“In the current context characterized by the closure of spaces for human rights defenders, we are also concerned that [the cancellation of the volunteers’ permits] undermines the possibilities of international accompaniment and observation which aims to protect spaces for non-violent conflict resolution and the promotion of human rights in Guatemala,” the letter from PBI concludes.

The eviction at La Puya is one of multiple examples of violence and repression associated with Canadian and US mining projects in Guatemala that diverse human rights and solidarity organizations have been accompanying for years:

The Guatemalan government’s attack on PBI is a further affront to mining-affected communities that are peacefully struggling to have their rights respected and to seek justice for crimes committed. Canadian representatives should speak out against this situation, while ensuring that Canadian foreign policy is overhauled to respect the collective rights of mining-affected communities.

Find an example letter here that you can send to the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala, copied to other Members of Parliament, here.

Open Letter from PBI: Cancellation of temporary resident visa of two Peace Brigades International volunteers in Guatemala

Peace Brigades International
July 2, 2014

Peace Brigades International (PBI) Guatemala would like to bring attention to and share its grave concern following the cancellation of the temporary residence permits of two volunteers of the PBI Guatemala project working in the country. This measure was decided by the Sub-directorate for Foreign Citizen issues which is part of the Office of Migration Services (Dirección General de Migración, DGM) and the Ministry of Interior (Ministerio de Gobernación), in two resolutions dated 1st July, without stating the reasons or events that led to this decision. The resulting situation affects both individuals and their immigration status, as well as the work of international accompaniment and observation for the defence of human rights which PBI has carried out in Guatemala for over 30 years.

On July 1st  2014, two PBI volunteers, of Chilean and Spanish nationality, presented themselves at the Office of Migration Services, which had summoned them via written notice on 25th June (Received 26th June) to provide “information with regards to their temporal residency permits”. In the meeting, during which the legal representative of PBI Guatemala as well as a lawyer were present, the volunteers were informed that their temporal residency had been withdrawn and that they had 10 days to leave the country. However, the resolutions lack any reasoning on the basis of specific evidence to justify the decision and fail to refer to any actions of PBI or its volunteers.

PBI Guatemala has enjoyed legal status in Guatemala since 1995 [1] and is duly registered and accredited by the public authorities, with legal representation and capacity to act within the framework of its mandate and mission. Each PBI volunteer initiates the process of application for temporary residence upon arrival in the country in compliance with immigration law. At all times, PBI and its volunteers in Guatemala act in accord with the legal framework. National authorities are regularly informed on our work both in Guatemala and outside the country.

The two PBI volunteers to whom the resolutions refer, observed the violent eviction of the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya on 23rd May. In June, PBI Guatemala issued an alert calling for attention to these events [2]. During the eviction, representatives of the Office of Migration Services were present but subsequently left without approaching the PBI observers, after police officers had checked their migration status by revising their identification documents, only to find them in order.

Over the following weeks, various articles with defamatory comments against foreigners and international organisations were published in Guatemalan media. We are concerned that the cancellation of the temporary residence permits of two of our volunteers may be related to false information on the work of international observation during the eviction which was published by the media.

In the current context characterized by the closure of spaces for human rights defenders, we are also concerned that the above-mentioned resolutions undermines the possibilities of international accompaniment and observation which aims to protect spaces for non-violent conflict resolution and the promotion of human rights in Guatemala. The work carried out in the country by PBI responds to the request of social organizations and actors who have the right to defend their rights and to seek international accompaniment and observation, when they face threats and attacks due to this engagement.

[1] Issued March 10, 1995 by Ministerial Agreement 148-95, the Interior Ministry.

[2] PBI, “Violent eviction of the Peaceful Resistence at “La Puya”,  Guatemala, 2.07.2014,

SOURCE: guatemalan-government-moves-expel-witnesses-police-violence-us-canadian-mine-site

See also:

Mining for the truth in Guatemala: What lawsuits claiming rape and murder in a Guatemalan jungle mean for Canadian companies abroad

Zimbabwe miners shut down after diamond resource exhausted

The Marange diamond deposit, spanning over 300 miles in Eastern Zimbabwe, was stated as the largest diamond mine in the world in 2013 producing almost 17 million carats or approximately 13% of global supply.

The diamond field is controlled by Zimbabwe government affiliate Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), which has partnership agreements with 7 private entities most of which are speculated to have ties with Zimbabwe ex-military and political officials.

After only 5 years of alluvial diamond production, the easily-minable surface resource at Marange has been rapidly depleted.  Beneath the easily-minable loose surface ore, the presence of diamonds continues, but lies in solid conglomerate rock. Mining of the conglomerate rock appears to be uneconomic as it was reported this week that two of the seven miners at Marange, Anjin and Jinan, will be shutting down due to resource exhaustion.  On June 30th, Zimbabwe’s SW Radio Africa, reported that the two companies will layoff 400 workers this week.

Anjin Investments Ltd is a private company joint owned by Matt Bronze Ltd, a company that is principally controlled by Zimbabwe senior ranking military official Charles Tarumbwa and Chinese-based Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group.

Jinan Mining Ltd is a privately-held Chinese-based company.

In September 2013 Belgian and diamond industry officials successfully lobbied the European Union to lift sanctions on Marange diamonds, which allowed for the diamonds to be legally sold in Antwerp, the global diamond hub, for the first time.

In March of this year, 380,000 carats Marange diamonds sold in Antwerp for $76 per carat. In February, 950,000 carats sold for an average price of $73/carat.  Prior to lifting of sanctions, Marange diamonds were only selling for $33/carat primarily in China, India, and UAE.

The importation of Marange diamonds into the U.S. remains illegal due to on-going human right abuses and a history of civil violence tied to the diamonds.

The five remaining miners in Marange after Anjin and Jinan shutter will be Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Company, Gye Nyame Respources, and Kusena Diamonds.

While its difficult to estimate Marange production for 2014, its likely that output will be significantly lower than the 16.9 million carats produced in 2013.  In 2012 Marange produced 12 million carats; in 2011 8.7 million carats; in 2010 8.7 million carats; in 2009 800,000 carats; and in 2008 600,000 carats.

Today the largest diamond mine in the world is Botswana’s Orapa mine estimated to produce 13 million carats this year. Orapa is jointly owned by De Beers and the government of Botswana.

About the Author:

Paul Zimnisky has worked in the financial industry for over 10 years as an arbitrage trader, equity analyst, and Exchange Traded Fund creator and developer.  Paul closely follows the global financial markets, gold, diamonds, and the U.S. energy industry.  Paul has been interviewed and quoted by numerous financial media outlets including Bloomberg TV, Fox Business News, the Economist, Barron’s, Forbes, and Investors Business Daily.  Paul graduated from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business with a B.S. in Finance.  Paul can be reached at PaulZimnisky@gmail.com.

SOURCE: http://www.mining.com/web/zimbabwe-miners-to-shut-down-after-diamond-resource-exhausted/