San Andrés mine, Copán, Honduras
San Andrés mine, Copán, Honduras; Photo: Karen Spring

Community Fears Toronto-based Aura Minerals Preparing to Illegally Remove Cemetery in Honduras with Military Support

Jen Moore Jennifer Moore worked as MiningWatch's first full-time Latin America Program Coordinator from 2010 to 2018.

Aura Minerals' gold mine in La Unión, Copan, Honduras can not expand without exhuming and relocating hundreds of family members buried in the community cemetery. Aura Mineral's subsidiary MINOSA has not compiled with even the basic standards for cemetery relocation, including receiving legal permission from the next of kin, presenting a relocation strategy that is fair and acceptable to the local communities, adequate monetary compensation, and community consultation.

The communities still use and value the cemetery and plan to continue protecting it. Just two weeks ago, two community members were buried there by their community and loved ones. It is false that the cemetery is not being used.

The CEO and President of Aura Minerals, Mr. James Bannantine, told the Canadian Parliament in April 2014 that Aura Minerals abides by basic environmental and human rights standards as outlined in the Equator Principles. This is simply untrue. Aura Minerals is violating the weak and unenforceable Equator Principles by criminalizing local leaders resisting the cemetery relocation; ignoring, entirely, the communities wishes related to the fate of their cemetery; and not presenting an appropriate cemetery relocation plan for community consultation.

Call Aura Minerals at (416) 649-1033 and tell them that the cemetery is not to be touched until they meet the demands of the five communities that still utilize it to bury their loved ones.

Also mention:

1. Using Honduran security forces like the military, military police, and police, and the corrupt judicial system in Honduras to do their bidding is wrong and unjust.

2. Rumours are circulating that Aura Minerals plans to send the Honduran security forces THIS WEEKEND to begin digging up the cemetery. Tell them to stand down. Tell them not to touch the cemetery until ALL of the communities are consulted and an agreement is reached.

3. Drop the charges of illicit protesting and usurpation against 25 local leaders that are defending the cemetery.

- Karen Spring, Honduras Solidarity Network

Community Statement

San Andrés Minas La Unión, Copan, Honduras January 24, 2016

The community boards of Azacualpa, San Andrés Minas, El Cedro, La Ceiba, Toreras and Esquin met to discuss and decide on actions to take regarding Aura Minerals' plan to transfer or exhume corpses from the old cemetery.

Everyone knows that agreements were signed with our communities in 2012, pacts that would bring direct benefits to community development.

Unfortunately, many of these agreements have expired and the company ignored the agreements, thus provoking a rift between the involved parties. As a response, we decided to unite our efforts to face these challenges, and not allow the imposition of actions that go against the wellbeing of our communities.

Given the practices of intimidation and blackmail that the company has used, there is no harmony in our communities, in which context we make the following declaration:

1. As communities located close to the mining project, we reject the pressure our communities have been experiencing on behalf of some authorities who have put themselves at the service of Aura Minerals. The mining company claims that these authorities already gave them the necessary permits that will soon enable them to initiate the process of closing and relocating the cemetery.

2. The communities will NOT permit the closing of and relocation of the cemetery until they comply with the other commitments made with each of the communities.

3. If Aura Minerals attempts to move the cemetery in an abusive and arbitrary manner, without honoring all of the agreements, it will force us to take action and file lawsuits (nationally and internationally), until we have the means to defend our corresponding rights.

4. We denounce the mineral extraction being carried out close to the cemetery. Daily explosions are making the area vulnerable, and in this manner, the company is trying to provide the justification - on health and security grounds - for authorities to order the closure of the cemetery.

We thank the municipal corporation for the support given to each of our initiatives in defense of the rights of our communities.

Finally, we underscore that we are willing to dialogue, as long as real and convincing responses are provided to the demands of our communities.

Sincerely,

Community boards of Azacualpa, San Andrés Minas, El Cedro, La Ceiba, Toreras and Esquin & the Azacualpa Environmental Committee

Translated from the original in Spanish by Rights Action