Haiti: Recolonizing Through Land Grabs

Part I: The Rush to Haiti’s North

Editorial comment:

This article brings to mind the Haitian proverb:

“Li palé fransé!”
Literal meaning: “He is speaking French!”
Real meaning: “He is obfuscating in French!”
If I were addressing only Haitians, I could leave at that. But for the benefit of other readers, I will add a bit more.

The following article was illustrated in Le Nouvelliste with original press photos of the Industrial Park at Caracol, the University at Limonade, both under construction, but not a single photo of the mining explorations. Why not? After all, the mountain range Le Massif du Nord, under exploration, covers about 1/3 of the country’s land area and is difficult to miss. Could this omission be because Haitians, journalist or no, have been banned for years from the areas of mineral exploration?

The Haitian people were last to learn about Haiti’s mineral wealth. If there had been a plan to benefit them, why were they not invited to contribute to this plan? Why are the legally elected mayors from the northern region being persecuted and the City Halls, where the land titles and other important documents are kept, appropriated by the central government?

The agricultural plans are hardly original and date back to the 1915-1934 U.S. occupation of Haiti.

It is easy to guess what Haiti’s future will be if it continues on this course. For example, in the Dominican Republic, the neighborhoods near the Pueblo Viejo mine, along the same mountain range as in Haiti, have erupted in protest because the mine employs mainly foreigners and pollutes the local waters with massive quantities of cyanide.

Dady Chery, Editor Haiti Chery

The return of Haitians to the hardships of road building for foreign interests is reminiscent of the 1915-1934 US occupation of the country. Here Genove Valcimon, 70, poses for a picture as he works on a road being built through the mountains to lead to an exploratory drill site in the department of Trou Du Nord, Haiti, April 10, 2012 (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery).

The Lure of the North

Roberson Alphonse
Le Nouvelliste
Translated from the French by Dady Chery for Haiti Chery

The acquisition of land in northern Haiti is not as easy as before. In some municipalities, one must pay cash on the spot. People know that the tide has turned, and the North is becoming an important economic center, revealed Andre, a Capois in Port-au-Prince for years. The recent information has fed the rush, said this former member of the Center of Technical Planning and Applied Economics (CTPEA).

Haitians watch as workers build a road through the mountains that will lead to an exploratory drill site in the department of Trou Du Nord, Haiti, on April 10, 2012 (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery).

Non-Haitian drill worker listens for the bit, hundreds of feet underground, during exploratory drilling for minerals and metals in the mountains in the department of Trou Du Nord, Haiti (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery).

Three companies are working in northern Haiti to draft a feasibility report for exploiting metallic substances, meaning gold, silver and copper,

confided engineer Dieuseul Anglade, the director of the Office of Mines and Energy (Bureau des Mines et de l’Energie, BME), to our newspaper during an interview.

These companies, have until June to submit their report,

he said, but meanwhile, hopes are high.

Some interesting results suggest that there will be exploitable deposits of gold, silver and copper,

said Anglade, ever meticulous and prompt to emphasize the difference between exploration permits and operating licenses, to cut short the rumors that whites are plundering our fields.

Even today, the BME has not issued any license to operate a mining company,

he insisted, refusing, in passing, to confirm the information made public by a dispatch from the Associated Press (AP) estimating deposits of precious metals in northern Haiti worth US $20 billion.

I do not confirm these figures. It is common for companies to make such statements to increase the value of their shares on the stock exchange,

said this official, ever pragmatic and coldly scientific. The Eurasian-Newmont consortium has already spent nearly $25 million in exploratory operations, said Dieuseul Anglade, who did not remember the sums invested by the other two companies: Mining Company of the North-East (Société minière du Nord-Est, SOMINE) and VCS mining.

According Dieuseul Anglade, the outlook is encouraging and the Haitian state, during the negotiations for exploitation, will keep close watch to ensure that the country’s wealth may benefit Haitians.

There is not only gold

The rush to the North is not solely motivated by gold.

The North is one of four growth areas identified by the Haitian government in its economic development strategy,

confirmed Fritz Jean, former governor of the Haitian National Bank (Banque de la Republique d’Haïti, BRH).

As designed by the authorities, large areas of investment, due to their spillover effects, will serve as engines for growing the rest of the economy. Four major projects, with differentiated phases of implementation, will strongly influence the production of certain goods and services, and the movements of goods and corporate finance in the north,

assured this expert.

To support this projection, Fritz Jean spoke about a few flagship projects like the construction of the Caracol Industrial Park and the University King Henry 1st in Limonade. Not to mention the IDB’s tourism development project and the USAID’s FTFCN project, said Jean Fritz, who is very involved in development projects in the North.

The Caracol Industrial Park (PIC), an investment of $276 million, supported by the IDB, the U.S. State Department, with Korean company SaE as its first customer is a trigger project that will mobilize nearly 8,000 employees in its starting phase and reach 40,000 at maturity, Jean Fritz said, adding that

“The World Bank has allocated a budget of $65 million for tourism development in the North.”

The University at Limonade, estimated at $ 35 million, will have 72 classrooms, laboratory and library space, and be able to receive nearly 10,000 students in the long term.

“It fills a major gap in higher education in the region, and as outreach, the teachers who will be hired at this university will provide training courses for teachers and perhaps even teach at other institutions of higher education or attend conferences, “ said Fritz Jean, who next explained the importance of a project like “Feed the Future Partnership Northern Corridor (FTFNC).

“This proposed $75 million project aims to make agriculture more competitive locally and internationally by supporting and strengthening the production chains of critical value. He anticipates an increase in the production of crops such as banana, maize, rice, peas and a doubling of the export of cocoa. The targets include an improvement in the incomes of 40,000 households in a 5-year time frame, and the incubation of several Haitian firms so that they might interface between the funding agency and the Haitian farmers, “

Jean Fritz said.

Haitian policy makers and international financing institutions, jointly engaged in these initiatives, already anticipate population movements, new forms of land use and the emergence of new industrial and commercial enterprises that will redefine the space between Cap Haitien and Ouanaminthe, sometimes called “The Northern Economic Corridor,

he said, stressing that it is essential to provide the North infrastructure for effective exploitation of economic opportunities that lead to job creation.

According to Fritz Jean, one must must have a port to meet the needs of the business transactions in the region; an airport to facilitate relations with the rest of the world, for use by emergency people during accident; roads for better traffic of goods and people, electricity to facilitate business development, and improved irrigation infrastructure to increase agricultural productivity.

“In this context, the government anticipates infrastructure investments of about $ 1.8 billion over the next five years to support the agriculture, clothing and textiles. Such interventions permit the anticipation of over 200,000 jobs,

revealed the former governor of the BRH.

Nesmy Manigat, from Cap au Nord, thinks this not without a downside.

The economic hub planned for the Far North is increasingly precise. Such an ecosystem has all its elements in equilibrium. The sub-soil, soil, a cultural heritage and tradition of tourism, direct foreign investment, education infrastructure, etc..

said Nesmy Manigat, who cautions that

development is more than adding potentialities or opportunities, it is primarily a regional vision and leadership building.”

“After all, much is still lacking. I mean the human capital required for the recovery of these assets, he insisted, citing the example of the oil-rich Gulf states that understood the need to invest heavily in education, innovation and advanced technologies.

For Nesmy Manigat

We must avoid rushing and falling into the trap of urgency, despite our extreme poverty.

“I am optimistic and I have great hope, provided we take the time to plan for long-term results and synchronize our actions well,

he said, before expressing a fear that the North might become a huge disorganized entity.

The urgency for me is to finalize the development plan for the area and promote real local SMEs to complete the competitive landscape of these investments now and in the future,

Nesmy Manigat said.

SMEs short of credit

The main problem is access to credit,

said Jean Bernard Simonet, owner of Cormier Plage, a few miles from Labadie.

SMEs play an important role in developing the tourism industry,” said the hotel manager, pleased with the “new business opportunities there in the North.

However, political instability can block opportunities, said the head of the Tourism Association of Haiti in Cap Haitien.

There is a wait-related uncertainty. But if Prime Minister Lamothe applies a general policy and those in power manages to restore calm, there will be a rush for investment, despite the difficulties,

said said Jean Bernard Simonet.

On the other hand, the businessman says one must also be careful.

In order to be successful, we can make choices that prove unfortunate in the long-term,

he said, taking the example of a $179 million port project in Fort Liberté Bay.

This is the best place for a port, but it may harm the development of tourism,

notes Simonet, who is favorable to a deep dialogue and policy planning so that one industry does not stifle the other.

Air transport in all this

Olivier Jean, head of Tortug’Air, number one in long-distance inter-urban transport, with some 120,000 passengers a year, believes in the economic boom for the Far North.

The growth of air transport will be a good indicator of development of this new business area,

noted Olivier Jean, citing the example of Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic.

However, Olivier Jean wants another approach in relations between the state and Haitian businesses.

It’s not normal that Guy Malary airport should be in such a state while so much money was spent to rehabilitate the Toussaint Louverture International Airport,

Jean Olivier complained, stressing the importance of air transport between cities for the success of country festivals.

The rush to the North is visible. Cap Haitien is experiencing a growth that is threatening the agricultural plains in the periphery. As Port-au-Prince in its time, the cities of North and Northeast … could easily become monsters in Haiti where planning has stopped, warned the incorrigible green militant, conceding his helplessness in the face of huge interests who mock ecological arguments.

Even if they claim to have carried out environmental impact studies before implementing each project,

he said with a grin.

Source: Le Nouvelliste (French) | Haiti Chery

Part II Section I: International Land Grabbers to Carve Up Haiti’s Rural Areas

Oxen pulling a cart of Haitian farmers, 1978 (Credit: Marie, Grand Venice -

Editorial comment:

The program below sounds helpful and innocent enough, doesn’t it? Until you consider that foreign corporations are decimating Cambodia’s forests like so many rapacious beetles, and agencies such as the United Nations, the Interamerican Development Bank, and the World Bank facilitated this massive land grab. Small farmers are being evicted from their lands to make way for projects such as hydroelectric plants and monoculture forests of export crops. The World Bank says it is shocked by the outcome of its well-meaning project. Some fools might believe this, but not the Cambodians who are putting their lives on the line to defend their lands. Haiti still has a little time. The IDB project below is meant to identify all of Haiti’s vulnerable land titles so that the lands may be grabbed by private companies with the government’s help. Given the experience of Cambodia, wouldn’t it better to prevent the land “mapping” in the first place than fight the land grabs after the fact?

Dady Chery, Editor Haiti Chery

Traditionally Haitian farmers cooperatively work their lands in groups called combites (Photo credit: Jennifer Browning).

IDB grants $27 million for Haiti rural land tenure program

Report Inter-American Development Bank

Investments to benefit some 40,000 farmers, improve efficiency and cut costs of land administration services

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced [on April 25, 2012] the approval of a $27 million grant for a pilot program to improve land tenure security in rural areas in northern and southern Haiti.

Agriculture is a predominant economic activity in Haiti, where approximately 60 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Landholdings average less than 1.7 hectares (about 4.2 acres) and are generally of poor quality. By some estimates, nearly two-thirds of 1.5 million rural parcels have no property title.

Land tenure informality is widely considered to hinder agricultural productivity, limiting rural incomes. According to this view, the lack of clarity in property rights blocks investments, access to credit and transfers that could lead to more efficient use of land and conservation of natural resources. However, Haiti’s land administration system, which functioned reasonably well during the first century and a half of independence, deteriorated over the past decades.

These problems are compounded by a stunted institutional capacity. Less than 5 percent of Haiti’s territory is covered by a cadastre and the national positioning network needed to make geo-reference readings is incomplete. Surveyors use outdated methods and deeds are transcribed manually, which makes it difficult to retrieve and verify information. Titling procedures are long and expensive, particularly for smallholders.

Pilot. In order to start redressing this state of affairs, the program will be carried out in two pilot areas covering the Grand Riviere du Nord watershed in the north and the Ravine du Sud and Cavaillon watersheds in the south, where Haiti’s Agriculture Ministry is carrying out several investment projects funded by the IDB and other donors. There are some 40,000 rural households in these areas, which have a variety of ecological conditions and land tenure situations.

The program will finance work to clarify private property rights and identify public lands in the two areas, leading to the registration of all parcels in a basic land registry and the identification of their owners and occupants. As a pilot project within this component, the program will finance the registration of deeds to some 1,000 parcels, in order to measure the incremental impact of formal land titling on rural productivity.

In parallel, the program will finance activities to improve the quality and efficiency of land administration services provided by various government agencies under the Finance Ministry and the National Cadastre Office as well as by other stakeholders, including surveyors, notaries, lawyers, court clerks and judges. Among other investments, it will modernize Haiti’s geodetic infrastructure in order to improve land surveying and mapping. One of the goals is to reduce the average time to register rural properties to 60 days from 300 days at present and to cut the average cost of the procedures to $150 from about $600 per parcel.

The executing agency of the program will be the Executive Secretariat of the Interministerial Committee for Territorial Planning (CIAT), a body of the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for national land use policies.

The program draws lessons from other land tenure programs financed by the IDB in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as from its extensive experience in Haitian rural development programs. In addition, the program is closely coordinated with a French-supported land tenure program focused on urban and peri-urban areas. CIAT’s Executive Secretariat is also receiving technical assistance from the World Bank.

As part of its monitoring and evaluation plan, the program will carry out randomized tests to analyze which aspects of land tenure regularization contribute more to higher productivity and better natural resource management.

Support. The IDB is Haiti’s leading multilateral donor. At present, it is financing rural development projects totaling $211 million, including grants from other sources. The projects include investments to boost agricultural yields by improving irrigation and access to better farming technologies and watershed management to reduce soil erosion and restore forests.

Since the 2010 earthquake the IDB has approved $519 million in grants for Haiti to finance investments in agriculture, education, energy, transport, water and sanitation and private sector development.

Cambodian girl killed in land row

Alleged land grab in Cambodian village results in the death of one teenager when security forces raid protest.

A Cambodian girl was shot dead on Wednesday [May 16] when security forces clashed with a village protest over an alleged land grab, rights groups said, in the latest territorial dispute to descend into violence.

Details were unclear but campaigners said the teenager was shot as hundreds of villagers involved in a long-running conflict with a private firm squared off against military officers and police in the eastern province of Kratie.

The Cambodian government has faced mounting criticism from the UN and rights groups over a string of increasingly violent land conflicts, with security forces accused of using live rounds against activists in at least four cases.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, who spoke to a villager who was with the victim before she passed away, said: “The bullet hit the girl in the pelvic area and she was dead before reaching hospital.”

According to locals in Kompong Domrey, security forces fired warning shots during the protest but it was not known who had fired the fatal bullet, Ou Virak added.

Cambodia is reeling from the killing of high-profile environmental activist Chhut Vuthy, who was gunned down by a military policeman last month as he tried to document illegal logging, according to a government investigation.

The United Nations human rights office in Phnom Penh confirmed the death of the teenage girl, whose name and exact age were not specified, and said it had sent a team to the Kratie area to gather information.

National police spokesman Kirt Chantharith told AFP he had no information about the fatality but said armed forces had been deployed to the area to prevent villagers “trying to control the land illegally”.

The Kompong Domrey residents have long been embroiled in a disagreement with the Casotim company, which owns a concession to produce rubber in the area, with both sides laying claim to the forest land.

Prime Minister Hun Sen last week announced a temporary suspension of land grants to companies for private development in an attempt to rein in forced evictions and rampant deforestation.

Land titles are a murky issue in Cambodia where land ownership was abolished during the 1975-1979 rule of the communist Khmer Rouge and many legal documents were lost. [And where the World Bank recently mapped the rural land ownership in advance of the current massive land grab. DC]

Sources: IDB via ReliefWeb | AFP via Ahram | Featured photo: Oxen pulling a cart of Haitian farmers, 1978 (Marie, Grand Venice stream, flicker)

Part II Section II: Who Owns Haiti’s Hills?


Editorial comment:

For all their talk about “weak states,” Haiti’s administrators seem happy enough to collect their salaries. If they really lack the means to do their jobs, then their salaries amount to nothing more than payoffs for keeping their mouths shut while Haitian farmers are dispossessed and the country is illegally sold to foreign concerns.

It is an open secret that for years Haitians have been banned from various parts of the country, including the mineral-exploration sites. Despite the recent publicity about Haiti’s mineral wealth, there is no evidence that this policy has changed. For example, I have yet to see a news photograph of Haiti’s mineral explorations that has come from a Haitian journalist instead of an approved foreign photographer. For this reason, photos of supposed Haitians at mine sites are omitted from the article republished below.

Dady Chery, Editor Haiti Chery

Why would Newmont, Eurasian and others wait for years to get a convention signed, and break Haitian law with a “Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)?”

If geologists’ calculations are correct, Haiti’s northern mountains contain hundreds of millions of ounces of gold. With gold prices currently topping $1,600 an ounce, one estimate puts the eventual take at $20 billion.

The Pueblo Viejo mine, just across the Dominican border in the same “mineralization belt” that runs across the island, has the largest gold reserve in the Americas. It has already produced 5.5 million ounces of gold and contains at least another 23.7 million. It’s also rich in silver: 25.2 million ounces already and another 141.8 million to go.

With Haiti’s apparently vast reserves (and weak government), it is no wonder mining behemoth Newmont partnered with Eurasian, which is headed by a former Newmont executive. Eurasian, via its local partner Marien Mining, controls various kinds of licenses for more of Haiti’s land than any other company: the equivalent of one-tenth the country’s territory.

Eurasian Minerals says the area in green is an “area of interest”

A small Haitian-American mining venture – VCS and its local partner Delta Mining – has or until very recently, controlled, licenses for over 300 square kilometers in the north; Canadian explorer Majescor and its Haitian partners are sitting on licenses for another 450 square kilometers. Taken together, foreign companies are sitting on research or exploration permits for one-third of Haiti’s north, 15 percent of the country’s territory.

Majescor is ahead of its rivals, having recently moved to the “exploitation” phase for one if its licenses. But VCS and Newmont/Eurasian are close on its heels. All of the companies recognize Haiti’s potential.

“Haiti is the sleeping giant of the Caribbean!” a Majescor partner said recently, while Eurasian president David Cole boasted on a radio show: “We control over 1,100 square miles of real estate.”

An investor who calls himself a “mercenary geologist” wrote:

It is obvious there is substantial geopolitical risk in Haiti. But the geology is just so damn good.

The geology is good. One small Eurasian site alone – the Grand Bois deposit – appears to contain at least 339,000 ounces of gold (worth about US $5,400 million at today’s prices) and 2,300 million ounces of silver.

But the geology is not cheap.

Pit mines on the horizon

Because in most locations the copper, silver and gold deposits are mostly spread out as tiny specks in the dirt and rock – what is sometimes called “invisible gold” – expensive pit mining will often be the only option, but Eurasian’s partner Newmont knows its pits. The gold giant opened the world’s first pit mine in Nevada in 1962 and later dug in Ghana, New Zealand, Indonesia, and other countries.

In Peru, Newmont runs one of the world’s largest open pit gold mines: the 251-square kilometer Yanacocha mine. Not long ago, Newmont was accused of influence peddling there when it was linked to former Peruvian spymaster Vladimiro Montesinos. After allegedly assisting Newmont negotiate favorable terms, a former US State Department employee ended up on the Newmont payroll. The company was also accused of mercury and cyanide spills.

A view of part of the Yanacocha mine, near Cajamarca, Peru (Photo: Euyasik).

Undaunted, Newmont recently embarked on an effort to open a second mega-mine nearby – called the Minas Conga – but so far, farmers, environmentalists, and local authorities have fought back with massive protests and in the courts. Last month, a government-hired panel of European experts tasked with studying the plans, told Newmont it would not be allowed to drain two high Andes lakes for the new mine.

As of May 28, Newmont had yet not decided on its course of action, but an April 27 Associated Press story quoted Newmontʼs Richard OʼBrien as saying,

if the $4.8 billion project cannot be developed ‘in a safe, socially and environmentally responsible manner’ while also earning shareholders ‘an acceptable return’ Newmont will ‘reallocate that capital to other development projects in our portfolio’.

Newmont has had problems in other countries too, more recently Ghana. The “Ahafo South” mine is located in a farming region known as Ghana’s “breadbasket.” So far, it has displaced about 9,500 people, 95 percent of whom were subsistence farmers, according to Environmental News Service.

In addition to forcing farmers from the land, Newmont poisoned local water supplies at least once, by its own admission. In 2010, the company agreed to pay US $5 million compensation to the government for a 2009 cyanide spill that killed fish and polluted drinking water. Newmont conceded proper procedures were not followed, and that its staff also failed to properly notify Ghanaian government authorities.

While welcoming the possible benefits well-built and -supervised mines might bring to Haiti, Anglade and other Haitian experts are worried that a pit mine, which would likely use significant amounts of cyanide to recuperate gold from ore and dirt, could be dangerous to Haiti’s already fragile environment.

In the neighboring Dominican Republic, a government-controlled gold mine caused so much contamination that the region’s rivers still run red as rain releases metals from the ore left lying about.

Mines can cause big problems for the environment,

Haiti’s former Environment Minister noted in a recent interview with HGW.

While serving in the mid-nineties, Yves-Andre Wainwright signed both of the existing mining conventions. The agronomist by training noted that, in addition to his heavy metal worries, some of the areas under license are “humid mountains,” meaning they play

an important biodiversity role and need to be protected, starting in the prospection phase.

They are also home to tens of thousands of farming families. But no Environment Ministry personnel has been seen a mine sites, according to community radio journalists.

Finally, what concerns Wainwright, as well as Anglade and other observers, is the likely incapacity of Haiti’s “weak state” to control the mining companies and the potential environmental damage. We have competent staff at the Mining Bureau, but they don’t have the means to carry out their jobs,”

Wainwright said.

All the money that comes in from the sand mines, and other mines, goes straight to the Ministry of Finance. Therefore, even though it is a sector that makes money, the BME is impoverished.

Wainwright’s assessment appears correct.

An audit of BME vehicles shared in January showed that of 17 vehicles, only five were in working condition. Twelve were out of service. And with a budget of about $1 million, the BME is also strapped for human resources. Only one-quarter of the 100 employees have university degrees. Another 13 percent are “technicians.” The rest are secretarial and “support” staff.

The government doesn’t give us the means we need to be able to supervise the companies,

Anglade confirmed in an interview while still head of the BME.

Most of our budget goes to salaries. We don’t really have an operating budget.

The World Bank’s private sector investment arm – the International Finance Corporation – has invested $5 million in Eurasian’s Haiti explorations. The bank says Eurasian and Newmont have good track records, but it also knows about mining’s potential negative impacts. Bank representatives said they recognize the challenges facing Haiti’s government and other “weak states.”

Often the host country government doesn’t have a lot of capacity, especially on the environmental and social aspects,

Tom Butler, IFC’s global head for mining, explained.

But one thing we don’t do is get into telling the government what to do with the money it receives.