New Report Calls for Moratorium on Gold Mining in Haiti

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 7, 2015

New Report Calls for Moratorium on Gold Mining in Haiti

Warns of Risks to Human Rights and the Environment

New York, December 7, 2015—Haiti is ill-prepared to open the country’s territory to gold mining, according to a new report (http://chrgj.org/documents/haiti-mining/) released today by the Global Justice Clinic of NYU School of Law and the Haiti Justice Initiative of the University of California Hastings College of the Law. The report warns of the risk of serious environmental degradation and human rights violations if mining proceeds. The call for a moratorium flows from over 100 days of fact finding in communities affected by mining in Haiti and dozens of interviews, including with Haitian government officials and company representatives.

The report comes at a crucial moment. When a new government is seated in Haiti in early 2016, it will face pressure to exploit Haiti’s natural resources as a means to lift the country out of poverty. “The Haitian government, as the representative of the people of Haiti, must consider whether potential benefits outweigh the substantial—and in some instances unavoidable—risks and costs that mining poses,” said Brian Gray, Professor Emeritus at the University of California Hastings College of the Law and co-author of the report.

The report warns that the social and environmental risks of mining in Haiti are heightened by the country’s existing vulnerabilities to natural disaster and drought, and by a lack of governmental capacity and political will to enforce laws and regulations. Although there is no operative metal mine in Haiti at present, international mining companies have invested millions of dollars in mineral exploration in recent years, and the World Bank has supported Haiti’s revision of its outdated mining law. To date, however, official discussions about Haiti’s mining potential have occurred behind closed doors among government officials, company stakeholders, and international financial institutions.

The report aims to address the 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 the Haitian communities most at risk and for the country as a whole.

In interviews, residents of communities affected by mineral exploration activity in the north of Haiti complained that mining companies entered their areas without adequate warning. Residents’ testimony shows that people signed or thumb-printed agreements without understanding that they were permitting a company to conduct potentially damaging activities on their land. Global Justice Clinic Director Margaret Satterthwaite emphasized that responsibility does not lie solely with companies: “Under international and domestic law, the Haitian State has the primary duty to inform the Haitian people and to take measures to prevent violation of their rights.” The report finds that the government of Haiti is unprepared to play this important role.

The report, 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.

About the Global Justice Clinic

The Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law provides high quality, professional human rights lawyering services to individual clients and nongovernmental and intergovernmental human rights organizations, partnering with groups based in the United States and abroad. Working as legal advisers, counsel, co-counsel, or advocacy partners, Clinic students work side-by-side with human rights activists from around the world. The Clinic has worked on human rights issues in Haiti since its founding.

About the Haiti Justice Initiative

The Haiti Justice Initiative is an umbrella organization for a variety of on-going projects at UC Hastings, including the Hastings-to-Haiti Partnership, a sixteen-year partnership with the École Supérieure Catholique de Droit de Jérémie that includes educational exchanges and collaborative work toward creation of a legal services clinic in Jérémie; legal assistance, community trainings, and related work to address gender-based violence in Haiti conducted by the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies; and other student and faculty projects, including this report on gold mining in Haiti.

Notes for reporters and editors

  1. Haitian advocates are available for interview by contacting the Global Justice Clinic.
  2. The report will be publicly presented on Monday, December 7, at 4 pm, at New York University School of Law. Haitian advocates and the co-authors of the report will discuss the main findings. For more information about the launch event, see: http://chrgj.org/event/7531/
  3. Background documents related to this report are available at: http://chrgj.org/clinics/global-justice-clinic/economic-social-and-cultural-rights/preventing-violations-and-advancing-rights-in-haitis-emerging-mining-sector/
  4. Haiti is experiencing an electoral crisis. After much public outcry and international pressure, local, legislative, and presidential elections were held in August and October 2015.       A run-off presidential election to choose between the two finalists from the October balloting is set for December 27, but remains uncertain in the midst of widespread protest and calls of fraud. The current president, Michel Martelly, has ruled by decree since Parliament was dissolved in January of 2015. 

For more information, please contact:

Ellie Happel (English, Kreyòl, Spanish), NYU Global Justice Clinic, +1 206 816 0544, +1 509 4688 9976, elliehappel@gmail.com

Brian Gray (English), UC Hastings Haiti Justice Initiative, +1 650 619 0835, grayb@uchastings.edu

Margaret Satterthwaite (English, French), NYU Global Justice Clinic, +1 212 998 6657, +1-347-277-5035, margaret.satterthwaite@nyu.edu