President Antonio Saca recently declared that he will not grant extraction rights to Pacific Rim, a Canadian-based mining company that has been exploring gold mining options in El Dorado, El Salvador. His announcement comes just before the three-month period for the amicable negotiation between the government and company ends and the dispute goes before international arbitration. President Saca added, “I want to make something clear, I prefer to pay the $90 million dollars [for arbitration] than to give them a permit.”
President Saca stated that he wants a business that can demonstrate that its practices will not harm the environment. The idea of “green mining,” Saca says, is “a very superficial thing.”
Pacific Rim has invested about $70 million in El Dorado, and is arguing that to deny them extraction rights violates CAFTA-DR. They claim they have complied with all legal requests, and superseded the environmental laws and regulations. The government, however, says exploration rights do not oblige the government to give extraction rights.
There has been a lot of civil resistance to mining. The Catholic Church has been in open opposition, particularly under the new archbishop of San Salvador, Monseñor Luis Escobar Alas. Monseñor Alas publicly stated his support of Saca’s decision about mining, as did Roberto Rubio, director of the National Foundation for Development (FUNDE). Both men cited the environmental consequences of mining as a major concern.
-Leslie O'Bray, SHARE Grassroots Education and Advocacy Intern