(Fwd) Suriname Info Update

Freedom Press (freedom@tao.ca)
Wed, 18 Jun 1997 08:37:02 +0000

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Information Update

10 June 1997

Golden Star Resources, Cambior and Nieuw Koffiekamp: Tribal Rights and Mining in Suriname

On April 29, 1997, Canadian companies, Golden Star Resources and Cambior Inc., formally notified the people of the Maroon community of Nieuw Koffiekamp that they must be relocated from their land to make way for an industrial gold mine (see, letter from GSR, below). Nieuw Koffiekamp lies within the Gross Rosebel concession in North-central Suriname where GSR have been exploring for gold since 1994. The community was not informed or consulted about the granting of the concession and the companies are maintaining that their rights by contract supersede the rights of the community. To make matters worse, Nieuw Koffiekamp was relocated previously from its ancestral lands in 1963-4 to make way for a hydroelectric dam that powers the bauxite refining operations of SURALCO, a subsidiary of US company, ALCOA.

Nieuw Koffiekamp through its representative body known as the Kollektief, rejected the companies' arguments in favour of relocation as self-serving and insufficient (see letter from Kollektief, below) and continues to demand that it be proven to them that it is "absolutely necessary" that they be relocated. At least 80% of the community are opposed to relocation. The words "absolutely necessary" are taken from Art. 6.11 of the Mineral Agreement signed between Golden Star, the Government of Suriname and Surinamese, parastatal, GRASSALCO. Golden Star's partner in the infamous OMAI mine in Guyana, Cambior Inc. of Montreal, exercised its option to acquire 50% of Golden Star's interest in early 1997.

Article 6.11 reads:

The Private Parties will not unlawfully disrupt or bother the living conditions of the indigenous people, if present, established at the moment in Gross Rosebel. The Republic of Suriname will not require, encourage or allow additional settlement in Gross Rosebel during the time this agreement is in effect. Without prejudice to the preceding, the Private Parties will adapt to and urge their employees and contractors to respect the customs of the indigenous people c.q. to have these customs respected. If at any moment the relocation of a village turns out to be absolutely necessary, the Private Parties will use the utmost caution, with the consent of the Republic of Suriname and in consultation with the authorities of the village, to convince the inhabitants to move and will bear the expenses for an totally adequate relocation programme, in accordance with the instructions of the responsible Minister.

With regard to the first sentence, the community has long maintained that their traditional way of life and economic activities have been severely disrupted by the operations of the mining companies and that they have been subjected to intimidation and human rights violations in violation of both Surinamese and international law. Indeed, Surinamese human rights organization, Moiwana '86 has stated that, in its opinion, at least 8 articles of the American Convention on Human Rights have been violated, including the right to human treatment, since the companies arrived at Nieuw Koffiekamp. For instance, company security guards working collectively with the police and the heavily armed, paramilitary Special Police Support Group have fired live ammunition at or over the head of villagers found in areas in which the companies have deemed off limits. After adamantly denying that this was going on, Golden Star admitted that it had occurred on one occasion. However, documentation exists that shows that it has happened more than just once.

With regard to the requirements for relocation, the community is demanding that all relevant information on the proposed mine and its potential effects be turned over to them; that they be given enough time to understand the information, with the help of experts if necessary; that their traditional decision making processes be recognized and respected; and that the Government must legally recognize the land and resource rights of the community. Suriname remains the only country in the Western hemisphere that does not in some way recognize Indigenous and Tribal rights to lands in its legal system.

The Kollektief believes that there is no reason that the community and the operations of the companies cannot peacefully coexist, provided that both parties respect each others rights and interests and the Government recognizes the community's rights to own and control its lands and resources. However, the companies and the Government insist that the mine and the community cannot coexist. If coexistence is not possible, Nieuw Koffiekamp says that Golden Star and Cambior, as visitors in their house must be the ones to leave and not the village, as the owner of the house.


Letter from David Fennell, President and CEO of Golden Star Resources to the Village Council of Nieuw Koffiekamp.

Paramaribo, 29 April, 1997

The Village Council of Nieuw Koffiekamp Attn G.A. Eersteling M. Pryor F.D. Lila Nieuw Koffiekamp District Brokopondo

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This letter is to advise you that the partners Golden Star Resources, Cambior Inc. and Grassalco will be completing a feasibility study for the mining of gold deposits in the area of Gross Rosebel in early May this year.

It is the Companies' intention to begin the development of this project in the near term. It has been requested that the companies formally notify the village and explain why it is necessary for the village to relocate. The mining plan contemplates the construction of open pits in the area of Royal Hill. These pits will be within 500 meter[s] of the current location of the village.

For the following reasons it is necessary to relocate the village:

1. Safety: An active mine operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; the use of equipment and explosives would create a dangerous environment, which may result in injury to villagers if they were exposed to it.

2. Further, the general disturbance caused by mining is incompatible with trying to maintain a residential community.

3. The presence of active mining will prevent the presumed agricultural activities in the area.

4. Because of the dangers amount there is a high need to provide a high degree of security. This security could restrict the villagers' activities to a great degree and prevent the villages from carrying out their day to day activities.

Primarily for these reasons it is necessary to make this advice. The company is prepared to work with the community to develop other sites in the area to relocate the village so that they both may prosper.

In order that the village understands the impact of mining the partners arranged to host the representatives of the village at a final mine run by the partners in Guyana [Omai Mine]. Two trips were made and a total of 12 villagers were shown what a mining operation is.

We trust that this satisfies the inquiry you have made.

Yours truly, D.A. Fennell President and CEO


Letter for the Nieuw Koffiekamp Kollektief to David Fennell, President and CEO of Golden Star Resources

Original in Dutch

From: Koffiekamp Kollektief P.O.B. 2982 Paramaribo

To Mr D.A. Fennel President and C.E.O. Golden Star Resources Herenstraat 8 Paramaribo

May 28, 1997

Dear Sir,

In reference to your letter dated last April 30 concerning the necessity of relocating the village Nieuw Koffiekamp and the official notification of our village council, we ask your attention for the following.

As we were informed by your letter of April 29, the main issue is about achieving harmony between the safety of the village people and the mining activities of your company. In the opinion of the `Kollektief' the arguments 1 to 4 in your letter earlier referred to, cannot be regarded as the absolute necessity as stated in article 6.11 of the mineral agreement between you and the government.

We are aware - and this has been demonstrated in other mines operating 24 hours a day - that a model can be found, and that there are sufficient technical possibilities to combine the activities of your company and those of the village people. Therefore we do not feel that the arguments put forward by you constitute an absolute necessity for the relocation of our village, but are more in the nature of an easy way to reach your goal.

The village council and the village people, having together established an organization appointed by them called "Het Kollektief", in order to collect all necessary information, have requested this Kollektief to inform the Ministry and the Task Force Relocation Nieuw Koffiekamp about your attitude.

Furthermore, we would like to call your attention to the fact that we have not been given detailed information and that the visit of 12 of our village people to mentioned project in Guyana does not constitute technical proof that the combination of both our activities is impossible. Apart from that it has come to the attention of the village people that a new village, not far from their present one, is being built. This village will be accessible only to the staff members of your company. The `dangers' mentioned by you apparently do not apply to this village.

If it is your opinion that the daily activities of the village people in the vicinity of the mines will constitute a danger to themselves, we would like to bring to your attention that the safety of the people could be guaranteed by a proper and intensive collaboration between the daily management of your company and our Kollektief.

Furthermore the report of the 12 people [who were taken to the OMAI mine in Guyana, ed. note] has not demonstrated to us that the situations in Guyana and Suriname are the same. The latter case is about people who have an emotional relation with the land, people who have lived and worked for tens of years in this area. Therefore, this case needs to be studied carefully before we can conclude that the village indeed needs to be relocated.

Considering the above we ask you again to receive our Kollektief in order to examine what the technical possibilities are to combine the activities of the village people and those of your company as well as possible, at least your company has to investigate together with the Kollektief if the circumstances constitute an absolute necessity as stated in the agreement you have entered.

Yours sincerely,

Begeleidingscommisie Koffiekamp Kollektief

E Vijgeboom President

cc: Minister of Natural Resources Minister of Regional Development Task Force Relocation Nieuw Koffiekamp


For further information, please contact:

Forest Peoples Programme 1c, Fosseway Business Centre Stratford Road Moreton-in-Marsh, GL56 9NQ United Kingdom Tel. 44. 1608. 652. 893. Fax. 44. 1608. 652. 878 Email : wrm@gn.apc.org

Forest Peoples Programme 1c Fosseway Business Centre Stratford Road, Moreton-in-Marsh GL56 9NQ, England email: wrm@gn.apc.org tel: +44 (0)1608 652893 Fax: +44 (0)1608 652878

The Forest Peoples Programme is an affiliate of the World Rainforest Movement.

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