Canadian mining company displaces Maya Chorti cemetery in Azacualpa, Honduras, now threatens drinking water of nearby communities

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: “We are not asking for money, we are defending our rights. No to the exploitation of the cemetery hill.” Photo by Rights Action.

Last April, the Peace Brigades International-Honduras Project posted:

“After seven years, despite ratification in an Open Council and an injunction in their favour, the struggle of the Azacualpa community continues.

The exploitation of the hill has not stopped, and with it the dispossession of the land, the displacement of its inhabitants, exhumations and environmental contamination.

We at PBI express our concern for the complex situation experienced by the Maya-Chortí people, who in exercising their right to defend their ancestral lands suffer constant threats. We are also concerned about the intimidation and threats against Bufete Estudios para la Dignidad, who have been closely following the case.”

Now, Elena Novak reminds us in her Waging Nonviolence article that:

For 200 years, the cemetery in Azacualpa, Honduras was the resting site of generations of Chorti people, descendants of the Indigenous Mayans.

But in January 2022, in the middle of the night, the Canadian-based mining company Aura Minerals destroyed the sacred burial site to get at the gold beneath it. In the morning, the people woke up to find the bodies of their loved ones gone — to where, they still have no idea.

Photo: Rights Action.

In 2014, the community blockaded the entrance of the mine after learning of the company’s plans to expand into the cemetery… A few weeks later, military and police retaliated with beatings, tear gas and arrests. In 2015, the community tried again, prompting more arrests.

The community of Azacualpa is unified under the Committee for People Affected by MINOSA, the subsidiary of Aura Minerals that has operated the San Andrés mine in Azacualpa since 2009 and sold extracted gold abroad to companies that include Asahi Refining and Auramet International, both of which have refineries in the United States.

The committee, along with Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective and the human rights law firm Bufete Estudios para la Dignidad, sent a joint letter at the end of January to [Utah-based] Asahi and [New Jersey-based] Auramet to express concerns over their continued business with the mining company and urging them to immediately cut ties.

That letter further cautions:

“We also note with great concern that the impunity evidently enjoyed by the company threatens with much more than the exploitation of the cemetery. Requested documents indicate that the mine’s expansion plan implies the forced displacement of the community of Azacualpa as well as the destruction of a water source that supplies the community of La Ceibita and other nearby communities. Local leaders report that the company has begun exploring near the water reservoir despite opposition from the affected community.”

We continue to follow this situation with concern.

SOS. From @Cehprodechn they warn that if “mining concessions lead to territorial conflicts like @guapinolre or #Azacualpa, Honduras would be completely ungovernable”


Note: A Canadian company

The “Legal” page on the Aura Minerals website says: “Aura Minerals Inc. (“Aura Minerals” or “Company”) is a Canadian company and reporting company in the Provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia, Canada.”

SEDAR, “the electronic system for the official filing of documents by public companies and investment funds across Canada”, reveals that the mailing address for Aura Minerals Inc. is Coral Gables, Florida, and that its head office address is Road Town, Tortola (British Virgin Islands), while its “Principal Regulator” is the Canadian province/jurisdiction of Ontario and that its stock exchange is the TSX (Toronto Stock Exchange).

In May 2018, The Guardian reported: “A transnational mining company, Aura Minerals, has been digging up graves in the 200-year-old cemetery near the community of Azacualpa, La Union, to clear the way to dig for gold. Some residents fear the graveyard is the last line of defence before the Canadian-listed company will eye the community as its next extraction site.”

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