Byen Konte, Mal Kalkile?
Human Rights and Environmental Risks of Gold Mining in Haiti
“A man came to my house and said that a picket had been placed on my land near Vert de Gris where my nephews plant beans and cabbage. I walked to the land. It took about an hour. The engineer from the company came over to me and asked if I owned the land. I said yes. He then asked me if I could read. Ha! I said to him, Look at me. I’m old! Of course I did not go to school. The engineer took my thumb and dipped it in ink. He marked the piece of white paper with it. I had no idea what the paper said. I had no idea what it was. He then paid me 150 [Haitian] Gourdes [approximately $3.20] and I never saw him again.”
Resident of Lalan, La Montagne
Haiti stands at a crossroads: The prospect of gold mining glitters on the horizon, while the reality of political turmoil, weak institutions, and widespread impoverishment glares in the foreground. Minerals can be exploited only once. This moment, before mining has begun, presents a unique opportunity for Haiti to hold a robust public debate about the risks and benefits of mining for the Haitian people, and to implement preventive measures to avoid future human rights abuses and environmental harms. Such a debate requires transparency, information sharing, and active engagement of Haitian communities. Until now, most discussions about mining have occurred among government officials, company stakeholders, and international financial institutions behind closed doors. There is a dearth of information in the public domain about what gold mining entails, what challenges it poses, what opportunities it presents, and what it may mean for communities and the country as a whole. The purpose of this report is to help fill that gap.
Byen Konte, Mal Kalkile? Human Rights and Environmental Risks of Gold Mining in Haiti, is the product of collaboration between environmental law experts and human rights lawyers, and was informed by the Justice in Mining Collective, a platform of Haitian organizations and individuals committed to promoting the interests of Haiti’s rural, northern communities. The title of the report, taken from a Kreyòl proverb meaning “well-counted, poorly calculated,” suggests that Haiti’s apparent bounty of mineral resources could easily transform into a curse.
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Residents walk down from Newmont-Eurasian Drill Site, Grand Bois. Photo © 2013 Ben Depp