BC Mining Resisters: Azacualpa Environmental Committee and ASONOG allies
Location: Copán, Honduras
Mining Company: Aura Minerals and Honduran subsidiary, Minerales de Occidente (MINOSA)
Nominated By: Nick Middledorp
Written By: Audrey Paugh
Since 2014, members of the Azacualpa community have been resisting the expansion of the San Andrés open-pit gold mine in the Honduran department of Copán after discovering that it would be engulfing Cerro Cementerio, the community cemetery that is more than 200 years old. Community resistance to the Canadian based Aura Minerals project carried out by the Honduran subsidiary, Minerales de Occidente (MINOSA) has faced criminalization, violence, and lack of support from the Honduran government.
In a convoluted agreement that took place in 2012, a housing relocation project of 400 families was proposed in exchange for allowing mining in some of the sites near and on Cerro Cementero. Over 100 bodies have been reportedly exhumed, a violation of human rights that has divided families. Residents in the Azacualpa community have expressed concern over the mining project for environmental and negative health impacts. Formal complaints were filed by residents of the community to the public prosecutor’s office in May 2015. As a result of no response from the government or the company, members from the community started to block access to mining machinery to halt the operation in November, at which point community leaders were criminalized with arrest warrants.
Since May 2016, Azacualpa has been seeking to reach a new agreement with Aura Minerals. Due to much protest, exhumations were temporarily suspended after a judge ordered in favor of the community in May of 2018. However, the community was further pushed to defend the cemetery as MINOSA was found illegally cutting and burning the forest surrounding the cemetery on the morning of March 30th, 2019. Although MINOSA claimed to have permits, they were unable to produce these. By the afternoon, a tractor had demolished the forest. Community members successfully attempted to stop the machinery, yet were faced with intimidation and police officers that fired gunshots and tear gas
Despite the coercion, violence, criminalization, and threats to Cerro Cementerio, Azacualpa Environmental Committee has remained persistent in their resistance to the mining project of MINOSA and Aura Minerals. Their resistance is inspiring because of the perseverance and bravery in confronting MINOSA and Aura Minerals in defense of the territory and respect of loved ones buried in the cemetery. Through filing of complaints, demanding meetings with the mining companies and local government officials, and blocking of the site they have been slowed the agenda of Aura Minerals.
A statement from Azacualpa:
“In light of the abuses by the Canadian company Aura Minerals which operates through Minerales de Occidente SA (MINOSA), The Environmental Committee and the Patronato (community leaders) of the community of Azacualpa, have the following to say to the national and international community:
1. We are tired of suffering abuses at the hands of these companies, abuses which are expressed in disrespect to our right to live in peace and tranquility. These companies have sown hatred between brothers and neighbors.
2. Aura Minerals and MINOSA have exhumed 122 bodies from our cemetery, despite some of their relatives’ disagreement. As a consequence, there is enmity within families because there is disagreement about the exhumations, which took place without a judicial order.
3. We denounce that the institutions of the government, all of them, respond to the interests of the company, they do not care about the opinion of those who oppose themselves to the damage to the environment, health, and family harmony.
4. We demand that the Honduran government orders this company to respect our cemetery because for us this is is a sacred place where our loved ones are resting.
5. We call upon the government and society of Canada to come and get to know the reality to which this Canadian company has submitted us.
6. We demand Aura Minerals to leave our community. No more deceits, no more abuses to our human dignity.
Azacualpa, La Unión Copán, 24th of April 2019”
Join us to celebrate BC Mining Resisters of the Year at the GALA OF RESISTANCE on Wednesday, May 1st in Vancouver, BC, unceded Coast Salish Territories.