Goldcorp Canada and the coup in Honduras: from disaster capitalism to the disaster of capitalism
Todd Gordon and Jeffery R. Webber interview Carlos Danilo Amador, General Secretary of the Regional Environmental Committee of the Valle de Siria, about Canadian Mining and resistance in Honduras.
Jeffery R. Webber/Todd Gordon: We’re here in Tegucigalpa, Honduras (January 26). Can you give us your name and position in your organization?
Carlos Danilo Amador: My name is Carlos Danilo Amador. I am the General Secretary of the Regional Environmental Committee of the Valle de Siria, a region in Honduras.
RW/TG: For the Canadian audience, can you tell us in general terms, first, the role of the Canadian mining industry in Honduras, and second, the resistance that has emerged in the country in response to the activities of Canadian mining companies?
CDA: In the case of Valle de Siria, where the Canadian mining company Goldcorp is active, the company has essentially come to destroy our natural resources, to divide families in our communities. Valle de Siria is a community in which people lived off of agriculture and raising animals before the arrival of Goldcorp. Once Goldcorp became active in Valle de Siria, through the project of San Martín, all of this [agriculture and farming] went under.
It is in this sense that the presence of Canadian mining companies in Honduras, and specifically in this case of Valle de Siria, has caused massive damage to the population and the natural resources. It’s hardly obvious that Canadian capital has come to develop our communities; instead, they have caused enormous damage.
It’s a question of Canadian transnational capital operating in our territories and lacking respect for the dignity of the men and women who live in Valle de Siria.
These companies create a false image of what they want to do in our territories – hiding the fact that they disrespect the dignity of our peoples, disrespect our human rights, impose cultures that are not ours, and rob our natural resources.
All of this is in order to strengthen the economic interests of Canadian transnationals.
In synthesis, we can say that the presence of Canadian mining companies has brought destruction and death to our community.
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Capitalizing on hurricane devastation
The answer begins with Canada’s reaction to the last crisis in Honduras.
In 1998, Hurricane Mitch swept through much of Central America and especially ravaged Honduras, where thousands of people were killed and millions were displaced. Already the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Honduras was now struck with over $3 billion in damages, a loss of social services such as schools, hospitals and road systems. Seventy per cent of its agricultural crops were destroyed. Nothing so devastating had ever hit Honduras.
Canada was quick to respond to the cries for help following Hurricane Mitch, with a ‘long-term development plan’. Canada offered $100 million over four years for reconstruction projects. These grandiose aid packages made Canada look like a savior. However, attached to this assistance was the introduction of over 40 Canadian companies to Honduras to assess opportunities for investment. This hurricane offered a strategic economic opportunity for Canadian investment in Honduras.
The Canadian government, as it officially stated this year, considers mineral extraction by Canadian mining companies one of the best ways to « create new economic opportunities in the developing world ». Shortly after Hurricane Mitch weakened the Honduran state, Canada and the United States joined to establish the National Association of Metal Mining of Honduras (ANAMINH), through which they were able to rewrite the General Mining Law. This law provides foreign mining companies with lifelong concessions, tax breaks and subsurface land rights for « rational resource exploitation ».
‘We have lost everything’
« They crave gold like hungry swine, » Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano has written of multinational mining firms. I thought of those words on a recent drive through the open pit San Andres mining project, recently sold by the Canadian company Yamana Gold to another Canadian company, Aura Minerales. When I’d finished my tour, I was convinced the social, economic, environmental and health costs of open pit mining practices far outweigh the supposed benefits, and that the resource exploitation practiced by certain Canadian companies is anything but rational.
I got chills driving through the abandoned village of San Andres. What were once homes and schools had been bulldozed into mounds of crushed adobe and rock. Where ancient pine trees stood, there now were deep craters, accessible by the nicest highways I had seen in Honduras.
But a local resident at the end of one of those roads told me: « We have lost everything. » The mine had displaced him from his home, and he was now without clean water to drink or fertile land to sow.
In February 2003, nearly five hundred gallons of cyanide spilled into the Rio Lara, killing 18,000 fish. The mine in San Andres uses more water in one hour than an average Honduran family uses in one year. In that same year, mining companies earned $44.4 million, while the average income per capita in Honduras in 2004 was just $1,126USD.
Zelaya’s anti-mining stance: payment due
As the man at the end of the road tried to explain to me, mining is not development for people who live around these mines. He speaks for thousands of others — a base of support aligned with the ousted President Zelaya. In 2006, Zelaya decided to cancel all future mining concessions in Honduras.
Which would appear to explain, at least in large part, why Canada stands virtually alone in the hemisphere in supporting the Honduran military’s ousting of Zelaya. The Canadian government, and its friends in the mining industry, are using the coup as an opportunity to plant their feet deeper into the Honduran ground.
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