Concern is growing at the secrecy surrounding deals struck between Haitian government and US and Canadian mining companies over the country’s estimated £12bn gold, silver and copper deposits.
Two years ago Haiti’s Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said mining minerals discovered in the north of the country could help Haiti rebuild following the 2010 earthquake which killed more than 200,000, and hasten an end to dependency on foreign aid.
Christian Aid country manager Prospery Raymond says lack of transparency over contracts is now giving rise to fears that the Haitian people may see little benefit from the mineral wealth.
‘Alarmingly, some contracts have been granted behind closed doors, without scrutiny or participation by Haitian civil society or parliament,’ said Raymond.
‘Opening this kind of opportunity to foreign investors without proper laws, enforcement and transparency in place has created much anger among the population and some politicians alike.
‘It is not clear that the benefits mining companies could potentially bring to Haiti would outweigh the costs they inflict, such as throwing poor people off their land, polluting our soil, air and water, and generating further inequalities of wealth and power in country where the chasm between rich and poor is widening every day.’
In recent months, two Haitian government ministers have reportedly signed a Memorandum of Understanding with two companies one of which reportedly employs a former Haitian government minister as a consultant.
The document is said to give the two mining giants permission to begin drilling in the north of the country.
‘The deal is in clear violation of Haitian law which states no drilling can occur without a clear mining convention,’ said Raymond. ‘The situation is compounded by the fact that Haiti’s state mining agency lacks the means and resources to supervise the drilling and the research now taking place.
‘Based on a report by local and international civil society groups, Haiti’s senate voted last February to block all mining contracts already awarded in secret, but the vote cannot actually force the foreign companies to stop their activities.
‘Such exclusive closed-door negotiations and secrecy surrounding the mining industry is akin to inviting the resource curse to come to stay in Haiti,’ said Raymond.
‘Haiti must learn from the mistakes made by many other countries that struggle to get mining companies to pay their fair share in taxes, including those in Latin America and the Caribbean, and not submit to the scandal of inequality.
‘The most important lesson is that companies and governments behave better when they know that everyone can find out about the level of payments they are making to governments. Transparency helps to reduce opportunities for tax evasion and corruption. It is crucial’.
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