Mining in Haiti must respect people's health and the environment

By Oxfam

PORT-AU-PRINCE — International relief and development organization Oxfam America warned that while mining may add to Haiti's economic growth, it may also cost more than the value of that growth if the impacts of mining are allowed to degrade environmental, human health, and social resources. The warning comes as a new report prepared by the Center for Science in Public Participation outlines Haiti's capacity to permit and regulate mines and the completeness and best practices of Haitian laws and regulations.

"It is important to recognize that Haiti's mineral wealth belongs to Haiti," said Oxfam America's associate country director Yolette Etienne. "The only way to protect Haiti's health and environment, while ensuring that mining adds to economic growth is to establish and exercise a national mining development strategy and regulate its implementation with a robust regulatory framework and capacity."

Because mining is not yet largely developed, Oxfam supports the Center for Science in Public Participation report's appeal that Haiti has the opportunity and duty to establish a meaningful mineral development strategy and process that will deliver for both development and the environment. This should include steps to:

  • Establish a mineral development strategy
  • Determine whether or not mining should occur and which mines fit the development strategy;
  • Determine where mining should occur;
  • Determine what other land uses should prioritize over mining; and
  • Determine the terms under which mining should occur, most notably ensuring that Haiti and its people profit most from their minerals

"The importance of ensuring Haiti's capacity to permit and regulate mines cannot be overstated, major mining activities cause significant impacts to the landscape and people in every place it occurs," said the author of the Center for Science in Public Participation report, Stuart M. Levit. "Therefore, it is essential for Haiti's capacity to be in place before mining activities begin."

Oxfam also supports the report's conclusion that the key elements to understanding mining impacts and regulation include an Environmental Impact Assessment, Cumulative Impact Assessment, and individual environmental, health and social elements for consideration. The report is available at www.csp2.org.

"The Haitian Senate's suspension of mining permits underscores the importance of the government and public having proper data, information and regulation," said Etienne. "Without this in place, the Haitian government and people may unknowingly permit mining activities that will seriously damage human health and the environment, cost the government and people economically, and undo or offset any benefits that mining could have for Haiti and its people."

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