Haiti: Gold Mining Activities and Sector Reforms

Photo by Veerle Opgenhaffen. Residents walk along the Limbe River near Camp Coq, Haiti.

Residents walk along the Limbe River near Camp Coq, Haiti. Photo by Veerle Opgenhaffen.

Accountability Counsel, in collaboration with the Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law, supports Haitian communities and activists in their efforts to hold the World Bank accountable for its involvement in developing the Haitian mining sector. These communities and organizations filed a complaint in early 2015, which was rejected in a decision that revealed the Bank’s failure to apply any environmental or human rights standards to its work rewriting Haiti’s mining laws. On March 9, 2015, we rallied 92 organizations and advocates to demand that the World Bank take responsibility in Haiti and to close the loophole that is allowing it to evade its own safeguard policies. The Bank’s Response was woefully inadequate, refusing to take responsibility in Haiti or acknowledge that the safeguards loophole is problematic.

The World Bank is providing technical assistance to the Haitian government to update the legal and regulatory framework that governs mining activities.  To date, the legislative process has not included meaningful consultation with affected communities and the draft law that has been developed lacks adequate social and environmental protections.

Communities also fear that the Haitian government does not have adequate capacity to monitor or regulate the mining industry and the World Bank has done nothing to increase this capacity. In January 2015, after no parliamentary elections had been held for years, the Haitian parliament was finally forced to dissolve. The current crisis of leadership highlights concerns that the government will be unable to effectively enforce mining regulations.

On January 7, 2015, the Kolektif Jistis Min (Mining Justice Collective) in collaboration with several mining-affected Haitian communities filed a complaint (also available in French) to the World Bank Inspection Panel, with assistance from Accountability Counsel and the Global Justice Clinic.  The complaint called for an in-depth, transparent analysis of the Haitian government’s capacity to regulate mining activities and to protect the human rights of Haitian communities.  It also requested that the new mining law be translated into Haitian Creole, subjected to a serious public consultation process, and revised to include stronger social and environmental protections.

On February 6, 2015, the World Bank Inspection Panel issued a decision (later made available in French) rejecting the complaint.  The Panel found that the complaint meets its criteria for registration and raises “serious and legitimate” concerns, yet it found that the World Bank chose to fund its activities in the Haitian mining sector in a way that exempts them from the Bank’s social and environmental safeguards.

In addition to World Bank assistance to the Haitian government for mining sector reforms, the International Finance Corporation (“IFC”), the World Bank’s private investment arm, has invested $10.3 million in Canada-based Eurasian Minerals for prospection and exploration activities in Haiti and Turkey.  Affected communities in northern Haiti are concerned about the lack of meaningful consultations, as well as other abuses and potential social and environmental risks associated with this investment.

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