On Tuesday, June 16, FMLN members of the Legislative Assembly called for the prohibition of exploration and exploitation of gold and silver in El Salvador. This prohibition would consist of a reform to Article 2 of the Mining Law. In the proposal, companies currently involved in mining activities in El Salvador would have 180 days to abort operations and leave.
In May 2008, during President Funes’ campaign, he granted an interview to Upside Down World, an online news source that follows activism and politics in Latin America. In the interview, Funes stated his opposition to mining.
“On our behalf, what we will do is work hand in hand in alliance with the communities to preserve water. This is also why, as a party and future government, we do not support mining exploration projects, as well as mining exploitation because they are projects that do not harmoniously coincide with nature. And, they pollute the few drinking water sources and reservoirs we have, putting public health at risk.”
With the call for new mining legislations the President and Legislative Assembly seem to be carrying out this and other promises made during the campaign. Though former President Tony Saca expressed his stance against mining, many ARENA party members still strongly supported mining. FMLN members proposed similar legislation in 2008, but they lacked the votes to get it passed. La Prensa Grafica reports that some ARENA representatives may likely support the mining prohibition, and provide the support necessary to pass the prohibition. Members of the PCN are less supportive. With the president’s high approval rating, and the public’s strong opposition to mining, the law may pass in the near future.
The Salvadoran Government granted roughly 23 exploration permits before 2005. Among those to receive permits were Pacific Rim Mining Corp. and the Commerce Group, both of which are currently seeking arbitration over their inability to secure or, in the case of the Commerce Group, maintain the permits necessary to engage in mining activities. They argue that the Salvadoran Government encouraged investment by granting the exploration permits and that by not granting, or taking away, their rights to mine was tantamount to expropriating their investment and a violation of Chapter 10 of CAFTA. The new administration has yet to respond to either claim publicly, though the proposed ban on mining seems to indicate that they are planning to stand up to Pacific Rim and the Commerce Group.