Once again Salvadoran organizations organized under the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining took to the streets to reiterate their full rejection to metal mining in the country. On this occasion members of la Mesa participated in a simultaneous activity with organizations in the United States, Canada and Australia targeting the offices of the World Bank(WB) to protest a multimillion dollar lawsuit that Canadian miner Pacific Rim launched against the Salvadoran government utilizing a commercial tribunal under its jurisdiction.
The organizers submitted a letter to the Bank endorsed by 300 organizations from 31 countries around the world. The letter asked "to review the role of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes(ICSID ) and determine if its role supports the mission of the BM to end poverty and promote sustainable economic development in countries of the global south."
The lawsuit was filed under the ICSID by the Canadian miner Pacific Rim against the Salvadoran state in 2013 arguing losses incurred as a result of its inability to obtain permits to exploit the El Dorado mine in San Isidro, Cabañas.
Pacific Rim is asking for $301 million in compensation from the Salvadoran government or a concession for gold mining despite the enormous risks to the water supply in the country.
"We denounce this lawsuit as one more attack to the sovereignty of the Salvadoran people and reiterate our firm desire to further this struggle to finally stop mining projects in El Salvador ," said Vidalina Morales, a representative of coalition opposing mining.
Morales explained that the organizations fighting metal mining are convinced that mining has negative impacts on the environment, our water supply and the health of people living near mining projects.
"The only river we have in El Salvador is the Lempa River, mining projects are projected to be in the northern part of the country and this is the region that supplies water to the river. The Greater San Salvador region drinks water from the Lempa River and that is a major concern for which we argue that there should not be mining," Morales said.
The legal battle between the Salvadoran government and the transnational company began in 2009, when exploration licenses authorized in 2002 by the administration of former President Francisco Flores were not upgraded for exploitation.
This miner sued the country under the Free Trade Agreement with the United States, however, ICSID denied jurisdiction in June 2012 because Pacific Rim was Canadian. ICSID allowed the lawsuit to continue, however, under the Salvadoran investment law.
Members of la Mesa who oppose mining are critical of the existence of permissive national laws and trade agreements that benefit the interest of corporations at the expense of the rights of the population, and that make it possible for corporations to launch these types of lawsuits and drain the public purse.
In this sense, anti mining activist demand that the current Investment Law is reviewed, and a law against metal mining is adopted.
"We would expect that the current Legislature begins to work to protect and promote the majority of Salvadorans who have been fighting for the defense of the environment and against mining projects," Morales said. "Our life is at stake if we allow mining projects," stated the representative of la Mesa.