The National Roundtable against Metallic Mining demands information and an honest debate about the future of metallic mining in El Salvador

The National Roundtable against Metallic Mining demands information and an honest debate about the future of metallic mining in El Salvador

The National Roundtable against Metallic Mining (the Mesa in Spanish) asks the Salvadoran Government for all public information related to mining companies that have applied for operations permits in El Salvador, how far they have advanced in the application process, as well as the names of the applicants and their legal representatives.

The request for public information is based in the recently enacted Access to Public Information Law (LAIP in Spanish) and is a call to the government to present transparent information.  This information is currently being manipulated in a way that lacks transparency and is behind the back of the population.

The National Roundtable against Metallic Mining criticizes the ambiguous and non-transparent way officials from the Ministries of the Environment and the Economy have dealt with the issue, especially with respect to the completion of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the mining sector.

After almost a year of setbacks and then silence from the authorizes that forced, last March, the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining to leak a draft of the SEA to the press, Lina Pohl, the Vice minister of the Environment, stated that the only possible scenarios related to mining are the suspension of mining permits or not-issuing new licenses. 

For  the Mesa, this stance is insufficient and reinforces its belief that the results of the SEA don’t deal with the mining problem in an integral way and are, actually, an investigation into the feasibility of mining which would favor large multi-national corporations.   The Government should be proactive in defending Salvadorans lives and should energetically promote a definitive ban on metallic mineral mining in the country.  There are not the environmental conditions necessary to support this industry, and therefore, the government should take clear and resounding actions to ban it.  A moratorium only allows for more mining companies to continue to buy officials off and trick to the people with small donations that don’t resolve the structural problems of poverty and social exclusion.

The Mesa calls on the Legislative Assembly to begin the discussion of the proposal for a lw to Ban Metallic Mining which is stuck in commission.  President Funes, on his part, should demonstrate his commitment to not allow mining projects by supporting a metallic mining ban.

NO TO METALLIC MINING PROJECTS.  NO TO A EXPLOITATION PERMITS MORATORIUM.  WE DEMAND THAT METALLIC MINING IS BANNED IN EL SALVADOR.

National Roundtable against Metallic Mining in El Salvador

San Salvador, May 23, 2012

“It wasn’t the Attorney General’s Office that harassed me, it was the DECO

“It wasn’t the Attorney General’s Office that harassed me, it was the DECO”

Zoraya Urbina
Editorials, Diario Co Latino

The original in Spanish

Santos Rivera, brother to Ramiro, the environmentalist murdered in 2009 in Cabañas, explained that when he gave testimony against those accused for the crime, he was harassed by the investigators from the DECO (the Elite Division against Organized Crime) and not by the Attorney General’s Office, as was reported in a story published on April 16th.  Recently, the Specialized Sentencing Court of San Salvador sentenced those accused for the murders of five environmentalists in the Town of Trinidad, Sensuntepeque, Cabañas, among them Santos’s brother and Dora Alicia Sorto, who was eight months pregnant.  In response, the Environmental Committee of Cabañas (CAC) expressed its dismay with the ruling of the Court, a position that Santos Rivera shares.

“As an environmentalist and as a brother I am not satisfied with the actions of the Attorney General’s Office, how they investigated the cases, and the ruling of the Specialized Sentencing Court, because there are people who have participated as much as those found guilty who have been set free, and the intellectual authors are free as well and there have not been efforts to get to the bottom of the case.”

Santos said that he believes that the authorities already knew who the intellectual authors were, but they were no interested in investigating and it was possible that the company Pacific Rim was manipulating the disposition to investigate.

Francisco Pineda, the president of the CAC, has said on repeated occasions that the Attorney General’s Office is wrong in stating that family disputes provoked the crimes, due to the fact that before the arrival of mining companies in Cabañas there were differences among families but they never reached the point of murders being committed.

Mesa Reveals SEA

The National Roundtable against Metallic Mining reveals the results of the mining sector SEA and demands its immediate discussion in the Legislative Assembly

March 21, 2012

In honor of World Water Day, which is celebrated on March 22, the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining (Mesa in Spanish) gave representatives from the Environment and Climate Change Commission of the Legislative Assembly a copy of the mining sector Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), which to date has not be officially released by government authorities from the Ministry of the Environment, nor Ministry of the Economy.

The activity was organized as part of the events for Water Action week, where the Mesa  focused  on banning metallic mining as a situation that cannot be put off as well as on the fact that the conditions necessary to stop the deterioration of the quality life of the people should be guaranteed as soon as possible.  They emphasized that the Metallic Mining Ban bill, presented to the legislative assembly in 2006, should be discussed and immediately approved.  There are no more excuses.

If the obstacles to date have been the lack of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), whose results have been withheld since September of 2011, the presentation of the finished SEA today should allow for the immediate debate to begin.   The irresponsible silence maintained by authorities from the Ministries of the Environment and Economy towards the population has found its accomplice in the Legislative Assembly because they have stalled the discussion. 

The Environment and Climate Change Commission of the Legislative Assembly no longer has any excuse to delay the discussion about metallic mining.  The Mesa reiterated that the communities affected by mining in El Salvador and the social organizations that oppose metallic mining should be included in the debate because they understand the issue and know the terrible effects said industry has had on Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and even Costa Rica and Panama, where they have at least banned open-pit mining.

In 2010, the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination report classified this country as the most vulnerable in the entire world.  That same year, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN in Spanish) stated that barely 2% of the rivers in the country have water classified as “good.”  The rest, 98%, are average or bad.  The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has also announced that El Salvador is on the verge of water stress, which is to say that the country is beginning to have less than the minimum average annual amount of accessible water.  Are  more statistics to prove the vulnerability?

To confront this situation, the Mesa believes that allowing metallic mining to be established would be no more and no less than a coup de grace for our country.  The unregulated use of water (for ex:  the El Dorado mine that would use 900 thousand liters of water a day), the wide spread use of highly toxic chemicals like cyanide, the destruction of landscape and ways of living, are more than enough reasons to ban mining.

**Press Release by the Mesa Nacional Frente a la Minería Metálica

For the original in Spanish.

 

What the 2012 Elections Mean for Mining in El Salvador

What the 2012 Elections Mean for Mining in El Salvador

March 2012

Changes to the political power dynamics of El Salvador, some surprising and some expected, after the March 12th elections for Representatives to the Legislative Assembly as well as for Mayors and Municipal Councils are going to have important effects on policy making for the next three years.

The FMLN lost three seats, after holding the most seats in the Legislative Assembly (but not enough for a simple majority), and will now have 31 representatives next term.  ARENA gained seats and now has the largest number of representatives (34) in the Assembly.  GANA, a right-wing party that split from ARENA in 2009, won 11 seats.  This was the party’s first time participating in an election process.  The CN (formerly PCN) won 6 seats, the PES (formerly PDC) 1, and the CD will have 1.  The Supreme Electoral Tribunal has posted the exact percentages and break-down on their website

Simply put, the struggle for anti-mining legislation continues. The FMLN is the only elected party that has publicly committed to approving an anti-mining ban, and now more than ever the decision whether or not to pass legislation to ban mining is falling on GANA’s shoulders.  GANA now has the exact number of votes to pass bills for ARENA or for the FMLN (assuming the CD votes with the FMLN).

While this was more or less the same division as the past term, GANA was less stable and not very centrally organized.  Traditionally in El Salvador, representatives always vote according to the orders given party leadership (unlike in the U.S. were Congresspeople can be persuaded to vote against their party).  However, GANA has had a fairly decentralized leadership strategy, where some candidates claimed to have the freedom to decide how they wanted to vote. Now that GANA has consolidated their power in the Legislative Assembly, it remains to be seen how they control voting in the party.  In the past, including during campaigning, individual GANA representatives have stated their support for a mining ban, and claimed they would vote in favor, even though GANA as a party had not given an official stance.  It is doubtful that those candidates will now be able to make such claims.

In terms of mayors, Jose Bautista continues as Mayor San Isidro, and ARENA remains in power in Ilobasco, Victoria, Sensuntepeque and the PCN won Guacotecti, which means there will be no significant changes to mining policies in those areas.  In Chalatenango, the FMLN maintained control of the majority of municipalities that would be affected by mining (Arctatao, Nueva Trinidad, San José Las Flores, and Nueva Concepción, although the latter was by less than 100 votes).  In La Unión, Santa Rosa de Lima (where the Commerce Group mine is located) was a very close race that ended favoring ARENA over the FMLN.  The rest of the results for the municipal elections are on the TSE website.

The National Roundtable against Mining (the Mesa in Spanish) has not had a chance to evaluate their campaign to pressure candidates yet.  However, what is clear after looking at the results is la lucha continua.

For more analysis in Spanish of the elections and what they mean in terms of mining click here. 

For more analysis in English on Counterpunch.org (referencing mining) click here.