Water Not Gold! Australian mining company threatens water security in El Salvador

Contact: Sean Cleary (Edmund Rice Centre) 0403 434 512, Vladimir Pacheco 0404 053 724

Brisbane, Australia – November 7th, 2013 - The National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining (La Mesa), a grassroots coalition in El Salvador, is up against OceanaGold, an Australian company trying to secure water for the ‘El Dorado’ gold mine in El Salvador.  OceanaGold is suing the Government of El Salvador as it attempts to push ahead with the development of the mine despite widespread community opposition.  

To put international pressure on OceanaGold to withdraw its lawsuit against El Salvador and to build a stronger support base in Australia, a representative from La Mesa will tour Australia in mid-November.

Vidalina Morales, a member of La Mesa, is a small-scale farmer and mother of five children who lives in a community negatively affected by the El Dorado mining project. She is recognised internationally as one of the leading voices of the environmental defence movement in El Salvador.

The “Water Not Gold!” tour will show how grassroots movements can become vital actors in protecting our sovereignty, demanding better corporate accountability and ensuring the future of our water within Australia and beyond.  

The “Water Not Gold!” tour will also highlight how mining can impact on human rights and the environment, and how free trade agreements can be used by corporations to undermine the interests of citizens.    

OceanaGold has a history of human rights violations in the Philippines where it operates the Didipio mine.  La Mesa is deeply concerned that the company will use the same tactics El Salvador.

The El Dorado mine will use significant amounts of water – this is is a gross injustice given that in rural areas of El Salvador few people have access to clean water. The mine will also use large quantities of cyanide which risks contaminating scarce water resources.

The Investor State Dispute Settlement provision of the Central American Free Trade Agreement allowed the previous owner of the El Dorado project (the Canadian miner Pacific Rim) to sue the government of El Salvador for US$315 million over its refusal to approve the development of the mine project.  OceanaGold is pursuing this lawsuit.  

Australia is considering adopting a similar provision as part of the Trans Pacific Partnership. This has serious repercussions for Australian sovereignty.
This tour has the support of Australian Unions, the Institute of Policy Studies, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam Australia, the Edmund Rice Centre, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network and the Mineral Policy Institute, and many others grouped under the International Allies Against Mining in El Salvador.  

Vidalina is available to meet members of the Australian media during her visit to Sydney (9th-13th),  Melbourne (14th-16th), Perth (17th-19th), Canberra (20th-21st) and Brisbane (21st-23rd).