(received from US.-E.S. Sister Cities)
Pacific Rim response to report “Gold, impunity, violence in El Salvador”
20 August 2009
On 13 August 2009, Real News Network posted a video report that raised concerns about violence against anti-mining activists and pollution from gold mining in El Salvador, specifically referring to Pacific Rim Mining. The report is available at http://therealnews.com/t/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=411.
The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Pacific Rim to respond; the company sent the following response:
“Thank you for the opportunity to respond.
Pacific Rim is saddened and outraged by the horrible death of Marcelo Rivera.
The community of San Isidro has lost a leader and a teacher. We have always respected the rights of Marcelo and all others to participate in the mining debate, which he did in a non-violent manner, and ask others to follow his lead.
Let us be very clear, the company has no knowledge of the crime, other than information published in the local media. We know of no connection of the murder to anti-mining activities in this crime but welcome any and all investigations. By law, Salvadoran police reports are closed for six months.
We encourage anyone having knowledge of the crime to step forward. Like everyone in the community, we rely upon and welcome the institutions of El Salvador to investigate and solve this crime and bring those responsible for Marcelo’s unnecessary death to justice. The police have four suspects in custody.
We are appalled that certain people, groups and media outlets have irresponsibly accused Pacific Rim of involvement in this terrible crime.
Unfortunately, as a result of these unfounded accusations against the company, tensions have mounted and violent threats have been made against our Salvadoran employees, a respected member of society who serves on our Advisory Board, our attorney in Washington D.C. and management of the company in the United States. These accusations against the Company are a calculated attempt to taint Pacific Rim and disrupt the resolution of our CAFTA dispute.
We are encouraged by statements from government officials of El Salvador that they will resolve our investment dispute and we depend upon the legal processes in place for settling the dispute. We rely on the government of El Salvador to insure the rule of law is observed by all parties, including the protection of opposition activists, as well as our employees and property.
There is no place in the mining debate for threats upon people’s lives and safety. We reach out to all involved in the debate to return to discussing the issue calmly, using science and logic, and to keep emotions in check. We ask all parties involved in the mining debate to refrain from violence, threats of violence and attempts to incite violence. We always encourage an open and healthy debate founded upon honest scientific fact and economic and social reality. We remain committed to achieving a peaceful resolution that will benefit the people of Cabañas and all Salvadorans.
CORRECTIONS AND/OR COMMENTS
As to the video you provide in your email, linked as follows, http://therealnews.com/t/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=4118&updaterx=2009-08-13+02:14:31, we offer the following comments and corrections to information and misinformation as reported in the video.
Pacific Rim has held, and continues to hold numerous public consultations.
These consultations were key to the environmental design of the proposed mine and are fully documented in our Environmental Impact Study, that according to the Salvadoran environmental agency, MARN, was the most thorough they had ever seen at the time we submitted it.
The comparison of our mine design to the Honduran operations is incorrect.
The video shows an open pit mine, a surface mine. Our proposed El Dorado mine design is an underground mine with minimal surface disturbance. The video shows clips of people with skin disorders in the vicinity of one of the Honduran operations which opposition groups continually report to be related to the mine itself. The skin rashes were independently investigated by health institutions. A copy of their report is attached.
The statement that we received "very friendly treatment" from the administration of former President Tony Saca is incorrect and illogical. If we received such treatment, why then were we forced to file an investment dispute through international arbitration during the former President's term? Our claim is based upon our illegal treatment by the government of El Salvador under the leadership of former President Saca with respect to Salvadoran law and international treaty. This hardly qualifies as "friendly treatment".
There is no basis to the statement that Ana Vilma de Escobar, the former Vice President during the Saca administration, and/or her family, are significant shareholders of Pacific Rim. We have no knowledge that they own any shares in the Company. Why would she or her family make such an investment when the administration was failing to approve our permit application?
Pacific Rim supported the attempted Salvadoran congressional changes to the mining law, which would have strengthened the laws for environmental protection and increased the royalty. This law was debated in special committee and effectively died in committee through the actions of former President Saca.
With regard to the alleged lack of democratic process, mayoral elections and congressional elections were held earlier this year.
Democracy was convincingly demonstrated in these elections in Cabañas.
Mining was a major issue in the Cabañas elections and the people overwhelmingly voted for candidates that favored the proposed project and rejected those candidates who were opposed. Pacific Rim has never contributed to any campaign of any electoral candidate from any party anywhere in El Salvador or anywhere else. The majority of the people of El Salvador and especially the people of Cabañas support the project and mining in general.
The statements regarding contamination from heavy metals such as "arsenic and lead" have no basis in scientific fact. The most common rock type exposed on the surface of El Salvador has three times more arsenic and about the same levels of lead as the veins that contain the gold. There is no potential for acid mine drainage in this type of gold deposit, geologically known as low-sulfidation epithermal. This is the only type of deposit for which we explore for exactly that reason. One of our main company goals is to raise the bar for environmental protection. Further, the waters draining from the historical workings are alkaline, not acidic. We refer you to our web page (in Spanish) which provides technical, scientific and economic information about our project: http://www.pacificrim.com.sv .
Protecting and improving local water supplies is a major objective in our proposed mine design. This mine would be the single most progressive mine ever built in the Americas when considering environmental protections. In our numerous community consultations, it was obvious water was the issue of greatest concern to the people of the area who survive largely on subsistence farming and remittances from family members in the US. While there is a lack of potable water and infrastructure for collecting water in El Salvador, there is no lack of water. El Salvador is sub-tropical and receives abundant rainfall during the rainy season. Our mine design includes the construction of a reservoir for water collection during the rainy season for storage and use during the dry season. There are no production wells in the design and the operation will actually improve the flow and availability of water during the dry season when it is most needed.
Surface waters on site have been contaminated with bacteria, detergents, insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers as a result of heavy surface water use by local inhabitants and the lack of adequate water treatment facilities. Our mine design includes a water treatment plant.
Any waters flowing out of the proposed mine will be cleaner than the waters flowing into the collection reservoir.
It is true that our exploration drilling temporarily disrupted the flow of a local spring. Our technical staff determined the cause and provided a temporary water supply until the problem was corrected. Today, the spring continues to flow as it has for over a hundred years.
Finally, Oscar Menjivar does not, and has never worked in any capacity for Pacific Rim.
President & CEO
Pacific Rim Mining Corp.
Reno, NV USA”