Significant Work Remains for Haiti to be Ready for Gold Mining

By Oxfam

New report assesses Haiti’s capacity for large-scale mining

Governance and regulatory challenges need to be addressed before Haiti’s gold, silver, and copper resources are developed, according to a new report from international relief and development organization Oxfam. The potential revenues from mining could be essential for Haiti to meet its persistent development challenges – widespread poverty, extreme inequality, weak institutions, high risks of corruption, and vulnerability to disasters – but there is little evidence to suggest that Haiti’s current and proposed mining and fiscal management regulations and capacity are adequate to effectively manage the sector.

“The Haitian government should promote and structure a sound management of new revenues for pro-poor development spending,” said Damien Berrendorf, Oxfam Haiti Director. “Mining could be a blessing or a curse for the people of Haiti, and there are clear steps that must be taken to ensure that these revenues are managed responsibly. Oxfam hopes that its new report will inform the Haitian’s government’s management system and ensure mining revenues are ethical, beneficial and responsible to all communities.”  

Industrial mining historically has been limited in Haiti. This situation is changing, and today, foreign investors have their sights set on developing and exporting Haiti’s subterranean gold, silver, and copper resources.

Despite considerable donor assistance since the early 1990s, which increased following the 2010 earthquake, Haiti’s public fiscal management system remains weak, ineffective, and prone to corruption. There are few, if any, indicators that Haiti’s public fiscal management system has the capacity to effectively manage the anticipated revenues from mining.

In addition, the current draft mining law has significant deficiencies that could jeopardize Haiti’s environment and the well-being of affected communities, and could even restrict the Haitian government’s ability to effectively regulate mining. In particular, provisions relating to environmental impact assessments, financial transparency, compensation for land that is taken, and financial guarantees should be strengthened along with provisions for closure and cleanup costs of abandoned mines.

“There are major concerns about the existing and proposed mining laws, as well as the involvement of the public in the drafting process,” said Berrendorf. “To address these issues, we believe it is critically important that the government engage with civil society on the best way forward for mining. Without addressing these concerns, this money could be mismanaged or lost to corruption, not channeled to reduce poverty and inequality and lead to waste of non-renewable revenues that Haitians will only get to develop once.”

Oxfam makes the following recommendations for the Haitian government and civil society:

  • The moratorium on all new exploration and exploitation concessions should be formalized in law. Even though new sources of government revenue are urgently needed to fund investments in poverty alleviation, this urgency must not distract from enabling the legal and regulatory frameworks to catch up. This includes the full assessment of the direct and indirect social and environmental impacts that mining is likely to bring and determining whether mining is the “best use” of Haiti’s already fragile lands and surface resources, given the short-term benefits and long-term costs of mining.
  • The moratorium should be enforced until Haiti is willing to demonstrate significant progress toward the minimum standards for fiscal transparency. Although the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank note some limited improvements in Haiti’s fiscal management capacities, their own analysts, along with external analysts, recognize that much remains to be done.
  • At a minimum, these standards of fiscal transparency should include public, mandatory disclosure of all payments by mining companies to the government of Haiti, as well as all mining exploration and exploitation licenses. These disclosures need to be available in both French and Haitian Creole, and steps must be taken to ensure local communities understand these disclosures.
  • Haitian civil society and affected communities have a critical “watchdog” role to play in monitoring mining activities, if they take place, and this role must be reinforced. The capacity of Haitian civil society and local communities to engage with mining issues should be strengthened. This strengthening includes technical trainings on issues such as fiscal and contract analysis and water quality monitoring.
  • The draft mining law should be redrafted with input from civil society and community representatives and independent experts. The draft should reflect the highest standards for human rights, environmental protection, and transparency, including respect for the principle of free, prior and informed consent for communities potentially impacted by mining.

On August 20, Oxfam will launch the new report at the State University Roi Henri Christophe campus in Limonade, located in the Northeastern Department of Haiti. The event will bring together community leaders, mining companies, policymakers, academics, and private sector to discuss the future of mining in Haiti and the challenges, risks and opportunities it poses for the country’s development.

/ENDS

Note to editors: The full report is available here: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/research-publications/ready-for-gold/

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