Issue of the Week: Gold

March 11, 2007

My sister recently got engaged. She is well aware of the problems with blood diamonds, and struggled (and failed) to find ethical diamonds here in NZ. She now has a ruby ring, set in gold.

Unfortunately we never really even considered where the gold came from. While the movie Blood Diamond
has done much to raise awareness of the practices of the diamond mining companies, gold miners are getting on with business. Business that results in pollution, deforestation, the poisoning of water supplies, fish and wildlife and human rights abuses. This is happening worldwide, in Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Peru, Brazil, Guatemala, Congo, Ghana, USA and many many other places- just try googling “gold mine protest“.

Honduras is, unfortunately, a good example of the issues.

Dangerous levels of lead and arsenic have been found in the blood of Honduran villagers living downstream from a controversial gold and silver mine owned by Canada’s Goldcorp Inc., the world’s third largest gold mining firm.
According to the ecologists who organised the study, lead and arsenic levels in the blood were higher than the maximum recommended by international standards (70 ug/dl) in a sample of 10 people who live near the San Martín mine, in San Ignacio, a municipality located in the central Siria Valley. (IPS Feb 24, 2006)

Mining played an important role in the early colonisation of Honduras, and the resulting decimation of the indigenous people. History has a habit of repeating itself, and from what I have been reading it seems the people of the Siria Valley are paying the price once again. Apparently the mine in the Siria Valley was opened in 2000,

after the company entered the area with promises of the heavens themselves: cyanide is completely harmless, and the mine will bring employment, development, investment, 5-star hotels, etc. (Rights Action)

Instead, the people of the valley have ended up with a health problems, a decrease in the quantity and quality of water, increased poverty, deforestation and other environmental destruction.

The water scarcity, combined with levels of precipitation reportedly affected by the deforestation, has spelled disaster for the majority of the communities in the region, whose main subsistence and income-generating activities have traditionally been agriculture and livestock. Many campesinos report that the past two years have seen a marked decrease in their harvests. Once part of the country’s “grain house,” the Siria valley has lost its food security and now many families have to buy the majority of their basic staples (corn, beans, etc). “We have been turned into consumers. We have been denied the right to subsist,” laments Committee president Martin Erazo. (Rights Action)

If you are interested in finding out more about this topic, take a look at Reporter Zero. Reporter zero is an independent reporter on the ground in Honduras and in Guatemala where whole communities have been evicted to make way for a new mine (see the photos in Mimundo).

For more information on the problems related to gold mining worldwide, go to The Mining News, which carried news on minig and it’s impacts from communities and activists.


One Response to “Issue of the Week: Gold”

  1. […] just published an article on the Goldcorp mine in Honduras, something I have posted about before(here and here).  Here are some excerpts from the article: The results of the latest water quality and […]

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