NGO warns upcoming mining law in Haiti will leave $20bn of mineral wealth in foreign hands

Over three years after an earthquake devastated Haiti, killing more than 300,000, the country is banking on its mineral wealth to help take it off the poorest countries in the world list.

Since earlier this year, the country has been working on updating its old mining legislation with the assistance of The World Bank.

According to mining companies already drilling for gold, copper and silver in the country's northeastern mountains, Haiti’s untapped minerals and metals could be worth $20 billion.

Extracting minerals in Haiti has been prohibitive in the past due to many issues, including political instability and resistance to mining companies. But a new report by Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW), released Thursday, shows that already one-third of the country’s north is under research, exploration, or exploitation license to foreign companies.

The group added the awarding of permits has happened behind closed doors, with no independent or community input, which has triggered fears the government is opening the country's reserves for foreigners’ benefit.

Aware of this, the Haitian Senate resolved in February to halt all activities connected with recently granted gold and copper mining permits in order to allow for a national debate and for analysis of all contracts.

A few months later, the World Bank announced it was supporting the government to revise its outdated mining laws.

The new regulation would set out royalties for the government — between 9% and 12% — as well as environmental protection.

Image of street kids in Les Cayes, Haiti, by