Summary: El Salvador becomes first country to ban metal mining outright

San Salvador, 29 March 2017: El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly has voted to become the first country in the world to ban mining for gold and other metals, with 69 of the country’s 84 legislators voting in favour. SRT grantees MiningWatch Canada and the Institute for Policy Studies provided support to the Salvadoran groups advocating for the ban.

The vote follows more than a decade of protest over mining projects by foreign companies causing damage to El Salvador’s vulnerable environment (it has the second-worst deforestation in the hemisphere after Haiti, and 96 percent of its surface water is contaminated). In one case, the government has been involved in a seven-year arbitration suit, which was originally brought against it in 2009 by Canadian firm Pacific Rim Mining, then carried on by OceanaGold when it acquired Pacific Rim in 2013. The company claimed that the Salvadoran government must issue it a mining permit for the El Dorado project in northern El Salvador. The community and the national government disagreed.

The US$250 million suit was finally decided in October 2016, when the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) of the World Bank Group ruled against the company, finding that it had not met mining law requirements and owes El Salvador US$8 million. The company has still not paid, but the tribunal ruled this week that it must begin paying interest on what it owes.

Jen Moore of MiningWatch Canada said, ‘It is clear that the
Salvadorans have opted for water over gold […] OceanaGold must pay the $8 million to El Salvador and should immediately put a halt to all efforts to mine in the country out of respect for this decision.’

Manuel Pérez Rocha for the Institute for Policy Studies said, “It is amazing what this small country has achieved against tremendous odds. It is an inspiration for countries throughout the region.”

Full coverage from Mining Watch Canada’s website:

Further coverage from IPS’ website:

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