Sarah Anderson, IPS Global Economy Project Director
Posted: 06/06/2012 5:50 pm
A Canadian mining company has cleared a major legal hurdle in their quest to exploit gold in El Salvador. In a celebratory press release, the firm, Pacific Rim, quoted lawyers from two Washington, DC law firms that are representing it in the case.
I guess having one legal powerhouse behind you just isn't enough when a major pot of gold is at stake. And so far, the investment appears to be paying off.
Pacific Rim is suing the government of El Salvador, demanding more than $77 million in compensation over the government's denial of a permit for a gold mining project. The government acted in response to strong public concerns that the project could contaminate a river that is the drinking water source for more than half the country.
The World Bank tribunal hearing the case, in a classic cowardly maneuver, put the word out late Friday that they planned to advance the case past the jurisdictional phase and start hearing arguments about the merits.
The Pacific Rim release quotes one "extremely pleased" lawyer from Weil, Gotshal & Manges and another from Crowell & Moring who called the ruling a "great development." The continuation of the case makes for more billable hours. According to the Wall Street Journal, lawyers at Weil, Gotshal & Manges make as much as $1,045 per hour. GDP per capita in El Salvador: $3,426.
Today’s Trivia Quiz: How Global Mining Corporations Are Able to Undermine Democracy
Posted ByTriplecrisisOn June 28, 2012 @ 9:00 am InGuest Bloggers|No Comments
Robin Broad, guest blogger
Today’s trivia category is how global mining corporations undermine democracy.
First a bit of background. The way licensing for mining works is that a company first gets an “exploration license.” With that license, that company gets the right to explore – or test – the area to get a better sense of the extent of the gold or whatever the relevant mineral is. After that, the company can move on to apply for an “exploitation” or “extraction” license — that is, an actual mining license. Different countries have different requirements for both licenses but typically a company would be asked to present an environmental impact assessment and a feasibility assessment among other things.
To make this easier, let’s use the hypothetical case of a gold-mining company that is seeking to mine in another country.
Are you set? Ok, so here’s today’s trivia question: You are a foreign gold-mining company. You have already received an “exploration license” to mine in another country. You want to get an “exploitation license” so that you can start the actual mining. However, that country’s government has not approved your environmental impact statement and you have not yet submitted a feasibility assessment. Therefore, your best chance at getting that “exploitation license” is to:
(a) Just redo the environmental impact statement. (b) Just do the feasibility assessment. (c) Carefully follow the country’s written requirements and submit everything that is required. (d) Ignore the country’s written requirements and find some friendly government official who is willing to meet with you.
And (drum-roll, please) the answer is: (d). That’s right: Ignore the country’s written requirements and find some friendly government official who is willing to talk about the possibility of getting a mining license.
By Dominique Paul Noth Editor, Labor Press Posted June 8, 2012
Wisconsin’s myriad issues with businesses controlling mining legislation may not yet make the state a replica of El Salvador. But citizens should go to bed every night praying we never get there and fearful when they learn how, just this month, the World Bank tribunal brought that payout fever into sharper view.
Travel first to Central America and lovely parts of El Salvador – that visually alluring land now impoverished and socially crippled even as a young democratic government steps in to try to fix things after decades of political turmoil and civil war.
You thought Wisconsin had dissension! Let’s hope we never get close to that sort of disaster, brought on not just by ideological conflict but spurred by corporate greed, much as happened here. We avoided one such excess from the governor who survived June 5 – he was blocked from turning over to big feverish greed the keys to our mineral kingdom, stopped by, of all people, a moderate in his own party who didn’t believe in ecological corner-cutting.
Forces of blind profit were and still are culpable in the Salvadoran debacle. Political dissension made it easer for speculators to exploit the citizens – a warning for our own future.
Jan Morrill, a Maine native, now lives in El Salvador and regularly visits the river and town of San Sebastian. Much of her time is spent researching and recording the devastating environment and medical aftermath of the gold mining operation from the early 1900s until the mine was shut down by the new government in 2006 for pollution and disease-causing reasons. Just look at her pictures.
Investor Rights Strip Communities of their Basic National Sovereignty
On the day of the expected Pacific Rim decision, the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining organized a press conference with members of the Midwest Coalition against Lethal Mining (MCALM) and U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities in anticipation of the imminent news.In a show of solidarity of community organizer from Wisconsin, a state also facing the threat of open-pit mining, and MCALM founder Marc Rosenthal read a statement (below) highlighting the importance of">Video of the Mesa’s press conference and the statement
On behalf of U.S. El Salvador Sister Cities and the Midwest Coalition against Lethal Mining we want to affirm our solidarity with the Mesa Nacional Frente a La Mineria as it prepares to respond to the decision of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes on the Pacific Rim lawsuit against the Salvadoran government.
I am here representing the Madison-Arcatao Sister City project which has been working with CRIPDES and the community of Arcatao, Chalatenango for 26 years. Throughout the years we have been working together around issues facing the people of El Salvador, from the implementation of the Peace Accords to land reform to health and education. In recent years, it became clear that the greatest threat was one that we had in common: the threat posed by multinational mining corporations. And when we talk of mining what we are really talking about is the threat to water. Nothing highlights the commonality of our struggles like the fundamental human need for and right to clean water.
We formed the Midwest Coalition against Lethal Mining (MCALM), to educate communities throughout the state and the Midwest about the devastating effects of large scale mining that affect us both in the state of Wisconsin and El Salvador. Like the Salvadoran social movement, MCALM is guided by the principle that only organized people can defeat organized money. And like El Salvador, Wisconsin has its own history to draw on in fighting back. In 2003, a grassroots Indian, environmental and sport-fishing alliance defeated the proposed Crandon zinc-copper mine by one of the most powerful corporations in the world, Exxon. As in the case of El Salvador, the mining corporations attempted to divide people and exploit their fears and need for jobs. Like Pacific Rim they lied about the environmental effects of mining. After 28 years of resistance, this project was defeated by a broad coalition.
Today, Wisconsin is once again facing the destructive effects of corporate mining with proposed gold and iron mines and the expansion of sand mining for hydraulic fracturing. The corporations involved demanded major changes to our environmental protection laws.
Drawing from our inspiration of the Salvadoran anti-mining movement, we mobilized and defeated the attempt to change these laws. But the threat remains.
Today, as we wait with the Mesa for the ICSID’s decision, it is important to note the need to change the way free trade agreements like CAFTA affect our ability to defend our communities and environment. The investor rights in these agreements strip our communities of our basic national sovereignty and pose a direct threat to our future.
When we speak of international solidarity it is not a romantic notion but actually central to our capacity to confront these very powerful corporations. So, in the name of the Midwest Coalition against Lethal Mining, U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities and international solidarity we stand with the Mesa and the Salvadoran people in rejecting the imposition of multinational corporations and the World Bank in issues so central to our lives.
Hace días que no se habla sobre los arbitrajes con Commerce Group y Pacific Rim que han demandado a El Salvador por la falta de autorización para explotar minas de oro en el país.
Con respecto al arbitraje iniciado por Pacific Rim, El Salvador continúa esperando la decisión del tribunal sobre las objeciones jurisdiccionales interpuestas por el país. Como se recordará, ya transcurrió casi un año desde la audiencia. Las partes han recibido información de parte del tribunal que la decisión podría darse en las siguientes seis semanas (para finales de mayo).
Existen dos posibilidades sobre la decisión que está pendiente: 1) que El Salvador gane el arbitraje en este etapa, o 2) que el tribunal decida que el arbitraje continúe a la siguiente etapa (del fondo de la disputa), en la cual Pacific Rim por primera vez tendrá que llevar la carga de la prueba y convencer al tribunal que El Salvador ha incumplido a sus obligaciones internacionales y que ese supuesto incumplimiento le ha ocasionado daños.
Pero aún si sucediera esta última posibilidad (que el arbitraje continúe a la siguiente etapa), El Salvador tiene muy buenas probabilidades de ganar, pues ya en la etapa anterior (de objeciones preliminares) se planteó una defensa sobre el fondo del caso ante la cual Pacific Rim no tuvo una respuesta convincente. Por la naturaleza limitada de las objeciones preliminares, el caso debió continuar, pero esta limitante preliminar anterior desaparecería de llegarse a la etapa del fondo de la disputa.
Por otra parte, la solicitud de anulación presentada por Commerce Group para intentar anular el laudo que le fue favorable a El Salvador en marzo del 2011, continúa suspendida por falta de pago de los costos del proceso por parte de Commerce Group. El proceso ya tiene cuatro meses de suspensión, y al llegar a los seis meses, el CIADI (Centro Internacional de Arreglo de Diferencias Relativas a Inversiones) puede darlo por terminado definitivamente.
The Canadian multi-national mining corporation Pacific Rim recently circulated a press release in the U.S. press, which was covered by some press in El Salvador, where the company claimed that the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) will rule before May 31st on whether the ICSID has jurisdiction over the arbitration presented by Pacific Rim against the Salvadoran government.
In the press release, Pacific Rim alluded to communities and civil society organizations that have spearheaded the popular resistance against metallic mining projects in El Salvador.The National Roundtable against Metallic Mining responded with the following:
The biased opinions published by Pacific Rim are part of a media maneuver that attempts to somehow influence both the ISCID tribunal decision as well as national and international public opinion in their favor. We think these statements aim to confuse the population by creating false expectations and once again attempt to provoke social rifts as well as delegitimize the right of the affected communities to decide whether to accept of refuse the installation of extremely contaminating metallic mining projects in their home towns.
We, the organizations and communities that oppose metallic mining projects in El Salvador, have backed our arguments up with scientific truths.We have demonstrated that from a social, economic and especially environmental perspective, metallic mining is not feasible because it is an industry that uses and contaminates water in a country with a small national territory, high levels of population density and severe water scarcity.The negative impacts on public health, the environment, and, in general, the quality of life of the population, are our main reasons for rejecting metallic mining.
Because of this, if the government of El Salvador has limited the number of mining exploration and exploitation permits, it has not been the result in any way of a blockade by “rogue” “anti-development” organizations, as the press release claims.These descriptions show the true disdain which those who make them have for the communities of El Salvador.They completely negate the efforts that we as communities and organizations have made to prioritize the search for a model of sustainability that is in harmony with the environment and life in every form.Our decisions are based in political clarity and the sovereignty of the Salvadoran people to freely decide what types the development they want.
In 2008, a poll done by the Public Opinion Institute of the Central American University, UCA, showed that more than 62% of the population living in areas with mining potential were opposed to mining projects and that these projects provide insignificant economic activity and threaten public health and the environment. The Salvadoran Government, by not allowing any mining projects, is excising its legitimate right to make its own decisions about internal political affairs, by responsibly respecting democracy and responding to the interests and needs of the majority of the population.
It’s important to also point out that by calling the organizations that have contributed to the movement to stop mining in El Salvador “anti-development,” Pacific Rim owes an explanation and should publicly apologize to the 256 organizations from across the globe, representing millions of people, who have joined us in demanding that the ICSID rule in favor of the El Salvador in the suit filed by this mining company.
The National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador