The International Allies Against Mining in El Salvador call on our friends and allies to support the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining and mining-affected communities in El Salvador to take a stand against Canadian-Australian mining company OceanaGold.
In October of 2013, the Australian based company OceanaGold acquired Pacific Rim Mining, a Canadian firm ensnarled in a deadly conflict in the northern department of Cabañas, El Salvador, where communities have said no to mining for over a decade.
Since 2005, mining-affected communities, the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining, the Catholic Church, political parties, government institutions and public opinion have expressed opposition to mining given the negative impacts of proposed mining projects on this, the most densely populated country in the region that is largely dependent on a single watershed. In a rare instance of national consensus, in 2008, the government of El Salvador introduced a de facto moratorium on mining that the current administration has publicly promised to maintain.
The mining moratorium prompted Pacific Rim Mining to sue the government of El Salvador for $301 million US at a World-Bank housed tribunal, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Meanwhile, the company engaged in high lobbying of national authorities to try to have its license approved. At the community level in Cabañas, it led a disastrous community relations campaign that engendered deadly conflict in the communities surrounding its El Dorado mining project. At least five anti mining activists have been assassinated since 2009 whose murders have not been adequately investigated. Tens of other environmental defenders live, until now, under continuous death threats against their lives and the lives of their families.
The state of insecurity generated in Cabañas prompted the Inter American Commission on Human Right-IACHR to in 2009 to order the Government of El Salvador to “adopt the measures necessary to guarantee the life and personal integrity of the beneficiaries, and to inform the IACHR about any actions taken to investigate the facts.”
Despite widespread opposition to mining in El Salvador and narrowly sparing Pacific Rim Mining from bankruptcy, OceanaGold purchased Pacific Rim Mining for $10.2 million US in late 2013. OceanaGold vowed to continue fighting the suit, while seeking a negotiated solution with El Salvadoran officials. The case will reach its final hearing On September 15th, 2014. The stakes for Salvadorans are high. Beyond steep legal costs and a potentially negative outcome of the suit, the suit is punishment for a democratically elected government that is standing up for the common good.
During the month of September, please join solidarity actions taking place in Australia, Canada and El Salvador to support the just demands of mining-affected communities and their allies.