On Thursday, August 17th, the Siria Valley Environmental Committee held a press conference in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, to present the alarming results of the latest investigations into the ongoing health crisis in the communities affected by Glamis Gold’s San Martin gold mine in the Siria Valley.
Independent biologist Flaviano Bianchini gathered a series of water and blood samples in the Siria Valley in early May 2006. The results of the laboratory analyses confirm the contamination that the regional Environmental Committee has been denouncing for years. Among the five water sources tested — including mine run-off, a stream and a community well — all contained heavy metals and/or cyanide concentrations above the international legal norms for potable water and approximately half of the results are also above the internationally accepted limits for waters discharged by mining activities. Cyanide, arsenic, lead, chromium, mercury, copper, zinc and aluminum contamination was confirmed.
More unsettling still are the results of the analyses of the blood samples taken from residents — mainly children — of the mine-affected communities of El Pedernal and Nueva Palo Ralo. Both arsenic and lead concentrations were analyzed, revealing in each case levels higher than those considered dangerous by the World Health Organization (70mg/l). In three cases, arsenic levels surpassed the triple of these WHO-defined dangerous levels. Both arsenic and lead are linked to a series of illnesses, including the skin and eye conditions that have been consistently documented and denounced by the independent medical brigades carried out in the Siria Valley, led by well-known ecologist and medical professional Dr. Juan Almendares.
Below is an English translation of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee’s news release.
Siria Valley Environmental Committee
With a sense of urgency and great concern, today our Siria Valley Environmental Committee shares the results of the recent independent studies carried out by Dr. Juan Almendares and biologist Flaviano Bianchini, proving the real danger of the high levels of heavy metals in our waters sources and in the blood of local community residents. The laboratory analyses do not leave room for doubt: all ten blood samples reveal arsenic and lead concentrations beyond the levels condered dangerous by the World Health Organization and in some cases higher than triple these norms.
For years, the population of the Siria Valley has been denouncing the contamination of water in the region and the serious illnesses suffered by the communities affected by the open pit San Martin gold mine, owned by Entre Mares, a subsidiary of the Canadian transnational Glamis Gold. Both the company and the government of Honduras have ignored the health crisis in the Siria Valley, denying the true situation, just as we have been witnessing in the mining industry’s paid ads and spots that have flooded diverse communications media in the last few days.
For all of these reasons, we demand the immediate closure of the San Martin mine; to continue the mining activities knowing the impacts being caused is to condemn us to a gradual and silent death. Clear evidence exists, more than is necessary for the State of Honduras to cancel the contract of concession with Entre Mares, according to the contract’s tenth clause.
Of the Entre Mares (Glamis Gold) mining company, we demand the integral recuperation of the entire affected zone, not to be interpreted as the planting of eucalyptus trees and grasses, with which the company claims to have recuperated the area already. We demand the decontamination of our waters as soon as possible, as the already existent contamination will only continue with long-term acid mine drainage if measures are not taken to mitigate the contamination.
In the same vein, we demand that as guarantor of the public health in Honduras, a right enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic, the State determine responsibilities for the health crisis and compensate all damages and detriment to the health of the communities. While the governmental institutions continue to prolong their supposed investigations on the subject, the chronicle of a death foretold in the residents of the Siria Valley is demonstrated in this latest scientific study.
If the absence of an adequate response from the government continues, we will respond with concrete and legal actions to defend our rights.
Siria Valley, Francisco Morazan, August 17th, 2006.