December 10th, 2012
By Alexandra Early (source-

The conference: "Metallic Mining: Threats to Life and Human Rights in El Salvador" was held on Wednesday in San Salvador with the objective of calling for urgent action to curb the excesses of toxic mining. Speakers included environmentalists and economists who discussed the environmental, economic and institutional implications of free trade and mining and called for a law to ban metal mining in El Salvador. About two hundred people participated in the forum, including about 20 people from CRIPDES communities around the country.

In the forum, speakers and participants reflected on questions like:  
-Does mineral mining allow for the protection of human rights?
-Is it legitimate for a mining company to sue a country for not allowing a polluting industry such as metal mining?
-In a country with a shortage of drinking water is it fair that the mining companies pollute and waste water?
-Is it right to have laws that give more benefits to multinational companies than to the general population and the government?
-Is metal mining the best way to promote an equitable and dignified life for Salvadorans?

-What other alternatives are there?

Although more and more voices and arguments from civil society organizations are positioned firmly against metallic mining in El Salvador, the controversy is not reflected in the coverage of the mainstream media or the actions of political officials. According to the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining, the Salvadoran government "still refuses to become the first country in the world to definitively prohibit all types of metallic mining and guarantee human rights, life and sustainablility ", despite the fact that a study performed by government showed the unfeasibility of such mining projects in El Salvador, and despite the recommendations made by the Episcopal Conference, the Ombudsperson of Human Rights, the former National Development Commission, Universities, affected communities, and other national and international organizations.
At the forum, Angel Ibarra, director of the environmental organization, UNES, said “environmentally, we are screwed with or without mining” going on to explain that “water stress negatively affects El Salvador and the equitable availability of water for the population, 98% of our river water is contaminated, 95% of the national territory is prone to natural disasters and we have very low food security and food sovereignty.”

Ibarra noted how the price of gold has skyrocketed in recent years, asking  “is it that Pacific Rim is suddenly interested in the ‘development’ of Cabañas and El Salvador or is it that gold is worth more and they see a huge economic opportunity?”

Angel Ibarra also outlined alternatives to gold mining that would help El Salvador achieve real equitable and sustainable development, such as food and water sovereignty, solar energy and local economic solidarity projects.

In a statement to the press, the Mesa stated: "Without a permanent ban, the lawsuits will  keep coming.  El Salvador will be opening the door to a kind of investment which in the region and the world has proven to be highly destructive and polluting and has not fulfilled its promises of creating jobs. The cards on the table, it's time for the Salvadoran Government to act. “

At the end of the forum, numerous people who had traveled hours to attend the forum stood up and asked questions, demanding to know why their elected representatives were not present and taking seriously y the threat of mining. One of these folks, a farmer from Guacotecti, Chalatengo, put it very well saying: “What these mining companies say about development is a lie. Our authorities should be protecting us, but it looks like we are going to have to pressure them or confront these threats on our own.”

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