Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mining Activities in El Salvador: An Update from US-El Salvador Sister Cities - August 2008

Pacific Rim Suspends Operations in El Salvador
Recently, Pacific Rim, a large Canadian mining company pursuing exploration licenses in the El Salvador department of Cabañas, announced that it would suspend its El Salvador operations. Press announcements from Pacific Rim cited a lack of government cooperation and political will for the trouble the company has faced in pursuing exploration. In reality, strong and organized local opposition has made it difficult for Pacific Rim to operate in the area.

It is widely believed that government decisions on mining are on-hold in the lead-up to the elections in 2009. Because mining is so widely unpopular, the ARENA government fears electoral losses as a result of granting additional exploration and exploitation licenses to foreign owned companies.

While any news of this sort is encouraging, Pacific Rim's public statements and press releases appear to be both thinly veiled threats to bring the issue to international courts and an effort to pressure the Salvadoran government to allow Pacific Rim to operate in El Salvador despite strong popular opposition.

Continued Education and Resistance from the CCR and the Departmental Mining Table
In addition to articulating their position in the "Public Statement Against the Projects that Threaten Human Life and Our Environment", the Association of Communities for the Development of Chalatenango (CCR) and the Departmental Mining Table from Chalatenango have been busy planning additional activities as part of their resistance. Billboards stating the communities' opposition to mining will be erected throughout Chalatenango. Also, meetings with land owners are being held to dissuade them from selling to mining companies. As always, the CCR maintains a constant campaign to inform the communities of the disastrous impacts of mining.

Deceptive Tactics from the Mining Companies:

Offers of Scholarship and Development
In the department of Chaatenango, scholarships funded by the mining company are being offered through the Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero University. They are being offered to students from communities not located near any of the proposed mining sites. It appears then, that one strategy being used is to approach poor communities not directly affected by mining and offering "development projects" in order to deceive the communities into supporting the projects.

Propaganda Campaigns
Mining companies have been supporting a campaign to publicize "green mining" and the support of mining by leftist governments in Cuba and Venezuela. Both are efforts to deceive the public about the reality of mining in El Salvador. "Green mining", a supposedly environmentally and developmentally friendly mining process, does not exist. All mining will contaminate water and soil in El Salvador, as well as drying up water sources. Referencing mining projects in Cuba and Venezuela as a justification for mining in El Salvador is ridiculous, as the countries vary greatly in territorial size, population density, and the amount of mining profits that will stay in the country.

Pro-Mining Bureau
A group known as the Pro-Mining Bureau gathered outside the cathedral in San Salvador for several consecutive Sundays. The group supposedly consisted of individuals from Cabañas, another department where there has been lots of mining-related activity and called upon the Archbishop to change his position from against the mining projects to being in favor of mining in El Salvador. On a Sunday in June, communities from Cabañas showed up to counter-demonstrate. They pulled out their DUIs (state issued IDs) with their registered addresses in Cabañas and asked to see the DUIs of those from the Pro-Mining Bureau. Those gathered from the Pro-Mining Bureau promptly packed up and left and have not demonstrated outside of the Cathedral since. Those from the Pro-Mining Bureau that were supposedly from Cabañas are believed to be from a San Salvador suburb and to have been paid to participate in the Sunday demonstrations.

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