This is the second municipality in the northern department of Chalatenango in El Salvador to call for such a referendum on the issue of mining. In September, San Jose Las Flores declared itself a territory free of mining after 99% of the municipality’s inhabitants voted against mining in their territory. Currently El Salvador awaits the ruling on a lawsuit filed by the mining company Pacific Rim / Oceana Gold, which is being litigated in international courts threatening to sue the country for more than $300 million, arguing that El Salvador would not let the company mine within its territory.
One more municipality joins the national effort to summon its people to a referendum vote against mining exploration and exploitation in their territory. San Isidro Labrador in the northern department of Chalatenango is one of the smallest municipalities in the country with a population of just 900 inhabitants.
At a press conference on November 11th, representatives of the Environmental Committee of San Isidro Labrador in conjunction with the City Council announced that they will be joining the territorial initiative by submitting a referendum to declare the municipality a "Territory Free of Mining."
"The first referendum was held on Sunday September 21 in the town of San Jose Las Flores, Chalatenango, which was declared free of mining after 99% of the people voted against mining," said Marcos Galvez, representative of the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining and President of CRIPDES.
"The Second Community Consultation is scheduled to be held on Sunday November 23 of this year from 8am to 3pm. It will be attended by representatives from the Attorney for the Defense Human Rights (PDDH) and by International Observers that will attest to the legitimacy and transparency of the process, "said Pedro Cabezas representative of the International Allies against Mining, a coalition of organizations in Australia, Canada and the United States.
The results of the vote will be counted at the polling stations by the Municipal Electoral Board (JEM) and will then be delivered to the San Isidro Labrador City Council, which will then make the results public. Then the process of preparation and approval of a Municipal Environmental Ordinance prohibiting exploration and mining in the municipality will begin.
"This citizens' initiative must also be accompanied by advocacy within the Committee on the Environment and Climate Change so that members of the Legislative Assembly will discuss and approve the Law for the Prohibition of Metal Mining, a legal instrument that would prevent new lawsuits against the Salvadoran State"said Bernardo Belloso, representative of the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining.
This effort is part of a campaign run by the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining with Oxfam which seeks to raise the profile of the Pacific Rim / Oceana Gold case at the national and international level driving action and public outcry in countries like Australia, Canada and the United States. Furthermore, Salvadoran and international social organizations that support the cause assert that declaring territories free of mining is an act of sovereignty and self-defense against actions by the aforementioned companies.
By Alfredo Carías
Published by Revista Gato Encerrado
November 12, 2014