Needy and Anxious

Help! Information is needed. Action may be needed!

I shuddered as I read that Haiti is issuing permits for companies to mine gold and copper in their lands. I agree that Haitians need jobs, unemployment is 52 percent; their economy needs stimuli,  but my stomach fell to my toes as the relevant news item darted up at me from my computer screen.

Blame my desire to see Haiti achieve the best or blame the news media, research tools and my inquiring mind which have led me to conclude that in too many mines worldwide, even those of developed countries, security features and general working conditions have been the source of much concern.

Haiti is Third World, plagued with political instability. I use the categorisation, Third World, which I detest on purpose, because it carries all the negative connotations which added to this mining business flicked on my alarm switch.

Poor education and health standards along with the resulting high level of ignorance about critical matters in the mining business among a very hungry poor population offer no comfort to me as I watch from the outside.

My lessons from Walter Rodney’s book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, springs painfully to mind as I try to analyse the unfolding events. I know nothing about the investors nor the decision makers at the mining companies and I am not saying that they are bad human beings but I fear. I need to know.

Manise Joseph, 16, looks for gold. People in the village of Lakwev in north-east Haiti have been digging for gold since the 1960s. Photograph: Ben Depp

Manise Joseph, 16, looks for gold. People in the village of Lakwev in north-east Haiti have been digging for gold since the 1960s. Photograph: Ben Depp

Who will be watching out for Haitians employed in the mines?  Who will monitor safety, health and pay conditions; are these people competent and enabled?  Wages are already low with 75 per cent of Haitians earning less than US$2 per day, will the pay fit the tasks?

Who will prevent the exploitation of the country’s resources, including its people? Who will walk away with the lion share of the profits? These are important questions!

The answers are critical considering the enormous issues about the marginal level of the Rule of Law in Haiti which was raised in a United Nation 2010 report .  This Rule of Law, as the report noted not only relates to “the police, corrections and the judiciary.”  (Read carefully and grasp the  direness.)

It (the Rule of law)  is also about land registry, civil registry, building codes and commercial laws; it is about the State’s capacity to collect taxes and to guarantee a certain level of judicial security that can promote investments and job creation, to, ultimately, encourage economic development.

According to the Guardian online newspaper, the companies applying for mining permits were working with little government oversight. We all know that companies are about profits not regulations.  This is a sorry situation ripe for exploitation of man, country, animal and anyone or anything else standing in the way of high profits.

Commenting on this worrisome poor state of monitoring, geologist Dieuseul Anglade, the former director of Haiti’s mining agency, was quoted as saying: “The government doesn’t give us the means to supervise the companies. Most of our budget goes to salaries. We don’t really have an operating budget.”

I added this to Eurasian Minerals president David Cole‘s boast that his company “controls over 1,100 square miles of real estate” and investor Mickey Fulp‘s note that “It is obvious there is substantial geopolitical risk in Haiti, but the geology is just so damn good”; and the result was that my alarm bells reached deafening decibels.  Protection of the environment; ensuring appropriate labour, safety and health standards; and preventing the exploitation of man, animal, and country must be ensured.

Join me in this quest for answers and let us find methods to agitate for the best conditions for Haitians.

Thanks for participating in the poll.

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