By Alfredo Carias, National Roundtable Against Mining in El Salvador
translated from: http://tinyurl.com/mpx7p4n
It was 2 pm in the afternoon as we heard a woman's voice, through a loud speaker located in the park of San Jose Las Flores, inviting people living in the urban core to attend a public event against mining.
The event was promoted by leaders from the communities of El Portillo, El Tamarindo, Las Limas, Llano Verde, Hacienda Vieja and the village, all part of the municipality of San José Las Flores in Chalatenango, who had organized a petition with the signatures of over 500 registered voters to be delivered to the municipal City Council. The petition requested the council of San Jose Las Flores to conduct of a local referendum to declare the municipality a “Territory free of Mining."
"We walked around the village core and neighbourhoods collecting signatures, other leaders in the cantons also walked around requesting endorsers to gather all the signatures we are delivering today. I am happy that we have achieved this first step, but our conduct for a referendum approved by them (Municipal Council) and pass an ordinance to prevent mineral exploration and mining," said Ana Elsa Navarrete, of the community of San José Las Flores.
This signature collection is part of a civic process currently taking place in the town of San José Las Flores, to conduct a public consultation and proclaim San Jose Las Flores the first "Free Territory Mining" in El Salvador. According to the municipal code in El Salvador, at least 40 percent of the registered voters in the last election need to sign the petition, then a public consultation must be called by the local community council. If the anti-mining forces are able to get over 50 percent of the registered voters to support their motion then the community council must pass an ordinance prohibiting mining in the municipality.
"I thank the community development association for this initiative, and the general population of the different communities and cantons in the municipality for engaging in this interesting process of civic participation to request a municipal referendum on mining” said Felipe Tobar, Mayor of San Jose Las Flores.
This is a pilot effort led by members organizations of the National Roundtable Against Mining, La Mesa, in the region of Chalatenango and it is intended to inspire other communities threatened by metallic mining projects in El Salvador to encourage their municipal authorities declare their territories "free of mining” through a Municipal ordinance.
This initiative adds to the efforts la Mesa is leading to respond to Canadian-Australian mining company Pacific Rim/Oceana Gold whose multi-million dollar lawsuit against the Salvadoran State, will begin to unfold this September 15th (independence day in El Salvador, ironically) at a hearing in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
The declaration of territories free mining represent a political gesture to reclaim local sovereignty and to set up territorial defense measures against mining companies in El Salvador.