Rivers are being poisoned, and even graveyards are being dug up in the pursuit of raw minerals.
Even the dead can’t rest peacefully in the town of Azacualpa, Honduras as a Canadian mining company pursues profit and greed at the expense of human rights.
59-year-old Floresmira Lopez took the brave step of facing down the mining company as they came to exhume her father’s remains.
“I didn’t agree, I didn’t want them to take him out” she says. “So I stood there and told them to put him back.”
Floresmira’s community are at the forefront of the global rush for resources. Here is the Honduras’ largest open-cast mine, the San Andreas mine.
Operated by a Canadian company, Aura Minerals, huge quantities of gold has been extracted here since the 1980s. However, there is still more gold yet to be extracted and not even the dead stand in the way of these gold miners.
On top of one of the hills, beside Azacualpa town, lies the community’s 200-year-old cemetery. Beneath the tombs and the graves lie further deposits of gold.
Despite objections from local community members, families of some of the deceased, and the local parish priest, the company has begun to dig up the graves. Yet some of the community are resisting and also taking legal action.
“He was tender, he was a lovely man” says Floresmira Lopez about her father who passed away 8 years ago. His remains lie in the cemetery, but the company have attempted to remove the body despite Floremira’s objections. When the company came, she stood at her father’s grave and blocked the workers from taking his remains.
Globally, the extraction of natural resources, such as oil, gas, and minerals, is an incredibly lucrative trade. However, for many of the people living in resource rich areas, it can almost be a curse.
In Honduras, there are many more communities at risk of losing their land due to mining projects. Since a military coup in 2009, much of the natural wealth of the country has been opened up to big business for extraction. As of 2016 there were 837 potential mining projects in Honduras, extending across nearly 35% of the nation’s territory.
People across the world living in areas where extractive industries operate often face human rights abuses. They often still live in poverty despite the abundance of natural wealth on their lands. Furthermore, industries can often damage community’s resources by polluting the environment.
The extractive industries are examples of where some powerful global companies are violating the human rights of people in the pursuit of raw materials that are the engine of the global economy. Some of these raw materials are used to fuel our energy needs, and others for our demand for electronic goods.
Yet human rights abuses are happening in many other areas too, such as the Palm Oil and Sugarcane sectors. This is why we are campaigning for an international treaty on business and human rights. So that companies across all sectors have to respect human rights, no matter what their area of business is.
We need to show governments that there is strong support for this Treaty. People power is essential for our governments to take notice.
Please take action now to show your support for a treaty, share on your social networks, and contact us if you want to host a Trócaire speaker in your community or group. We would be happy to arrange a screening of a documentary we have produced, which explains the issue.