Advocacy, Cabanas, El Salvador Government, Mining

Action Alert – Disappearance of Juan Francisco Duran Ayala in Cabañas

On Sunday we posted an alert that anti-mining activist Juan Francisco Duran Ayala has been missing for over a week. He disappeared the day after he was hanging anti-mining posters in Ilobasco, Cabañas. Representatives of the CAC, the local environmental organization to which Juan Francisco belongs, report that the Mayor of Ilobasco, José Maria “Cheyo” Castellanos ordered municipal police to remove the signs that Juan Francisco was hanging the day before he disappeared.

Please join Juan Francisco’s family and friends in calling on the Salvadoran authorities, including the Attorney General’s office and the National Civilian Police, to set up a special search party to find Juan Francisco, as well as investigate all cases of threats and violence against civil society actors in the region. The CAC demands that these investigations also consider the links between the powerful network of local mayors, including Mayor José Bautista of San Isidro, Mayor Edgar Bonilla of Sensuntepeque, and Mayor “Cheyo” Castellanos of Ilobasco, and Pacific Rim Mining Company.

Cheyo Castellanos - Mayor of Ilobasco

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Send an email to the Attorney General Romeo Barahona (see sample email below) and Manuel Melgar, the Minister of Justice and Security, to demand a full investigation and protection for the victims. Please send the email to Barahona’s assistant at hector.burgos@fgr.gob.sv and to Minister Melgar jusegministro@seguridad.gob.sv and his assistant Sandra.lazo@seguridad.gob.sv.
    1. If you speak Spanish, please also call Salvadoran Attorney General Romeo Barahona at 011-503- 2230-6350 (see sample script below). Please also call Minister Melgar 011-503-7070-0081 (see sample script below).

Sample Email to Attorney General Barahona
hector.burgos@fgr.gob.sv

Estimado Señor Fiscal General de la República,

Como miembro de la comunidad internacional, quiero expresar mi profunda preocupación sobre las nuevas amenazas y los casos de violencia contra líderes sociales en Cabañas.

Hace más de una semana Juan Francisco Duran Ayala, miembro del Comité Ambiental de Cabañas en Defensa del Agua y Cultura (CAC) desapareció, a pocos días después de haber participado en actividades contra la minería en Cabañas.  Urge que el PNC y la Fiscalía establezcan un equipo especializado de investigación sobre este caso.

Además, urge una investigación profunda y eficaz sobre este último caso y todas las amenazas contra los ambientalistas de Cabañas, para determinar quiénes son los autores materiales, intelectuales y financieros. Es necesario también re-abrir los casos de Marcelo Rivera, Dora Alicia Sorto y Ramiro Rivera para investigar vínculos entre estos caso, los asesinatos de Darwin Serrano y Gerardo Abrego León, las nuevas amenazas contra el personal de Radio Victoria, y la desaparición de Juan Francisco Duran Ayala.

Finalmente, tomando en cuenta los nexos entre esta violencia y la lucha contra la minería, los casos de violencia y las amenazas contra líderes sociales en Cabañas requieren una investigación profunda para identificar los autores materiales e intelectuales.  Estas investigaciones deben de incluir posibles nexos entre la violencia y la compañía minera Pacific Rim, y las autoridades locales como los alcaldes de San Isidro, Ilobasco y Sensuntepeque.

El hecho de que la violencia y amenazas que se han dado en Cabañas desde 2007 siguen en impunidad ha permitido que surgieran los nuevos casos de violencia. Pido que, por favor, tome las medidas necesarias para asegurar justicia y protección para los afectados.

Agradezco de antemano sus gestiones para agilizar las investigaciones y espero que pronto se haga justicia en estos casos. Estaré pendiente de las acciones de la Fiscalía y seguiré informando a los y las funcionarias de gobierno en mi país sobre estos casos.
Atentamente,
Your Name


Sample Email to Minister of Justice and Security jusegministro@seguridad.gob.sv and Sandra.lazo@seguridad.gob.sv

Estimado Señor Ministro de Seguridad y Justicia,

Como miembro de la comunidad internacional, quiero expresar mi profunda preocupación sobre las nuevas amenazas y los casos de violencia contra líderes sociales en Cabañas.

Hace más de una semana Juan Francisco Duran Ayala, miembro del Comité Ambiental de Cabañas en Defensa del Agua y Cultura (CAC) desapareció, a pocos días después de haber participado en actividades contra la minería en Cabañas.  Urge que el PNC y la Fiscalía establezcan un equipo especializado de investigación sobre este caso.

Además, urge una investigación profunda y eficaz sobre este último caso y todas las amenazas contra los ambientalistas de Cabañas, para determinar quiénes son los autores materiales, intelectuales y financieros. Es necesario también re-abrir los casos de Marcelo Rivera, Dora Alicia Sorto y Ramiro Rivera para investigar vínculos entre estos casos, los asesinatos de Darwin Serrano y Gerardo Abrego León, las nuevas amenazas contra el personal de Radio Victoria, y la desaparición de Juan Francisco Duran Ayala.

Finalmente, tomando en cuenta los nexos entre esta violencia y la lucha contra la minería, los casos de violencia y las amenazas contra líderes sociales en Cabañas requieren una investigación profunda para identificar los autores materiales e intelectuales.  Estas investigaciones deben de incluir posibles nexos entre la violencia y la compañía minera Pacific Rim, y las autoridades locales como los alcaldes de San Isidro, Ilobasco y Sensuntepeque.

El hecho de que la violencia y amenazas que se han dado en Cabañas desde 2007 siguen en impunidad ha permitido que surgieran los nuevos casos de violencia. Pido que, por favor, tome las medidas necesarias para asegurar justicia y protección para los afectados.

Agradezco de antemano sus gestiones para agilizar las investigaciones y espero que pronto se haga justicia en estos casos. Estaré pendiente de las acciones de la PNC y seguiré informando a los y las funcionarias de gobierno en mi país sobre estos casos.

Atentamente,
Your Name


 Translation

As a member of the international community, I want to express my deep concern about the new cases of violence and threats against social leaders in Cabañas.

More than a week ago Juan Francisco Duran Ayala, member of the Environmental Committee of Cabañas in Defense of Water and Cultura (CAC) disappeared, a few days after having participated in activities protesting mining in Cabañas.  A specialized task force of prosecutors and members of the National Civilian police should be assigned to investigate this case.

In addition, there needs to be a thorough and efficient investigations into this recent case and all of the threats to environmentalists in Cabañas, to determine who the material, intellectual and financial authors are.  It is also necessary to re-open the Marcelo Rivera, Dora Alicia Sorto, and Ramiro Rivera cases in order to investigate links between those cases, the murders of Darwin Serrano and Gerardo Abrego León, the new threats against the staff of Radio Victoria, and the disappearance of Juan Francisco Duran Ayala.

Finally, taking into account the ties between this violence and the anti-mining struggles, the cases of violence and threats against Cabañas social movement leaders require a thorough investigation to identify the material and intellectual authors. These investigations should look into the possible ties between the violence and the mining company Pacific Rim as well as local authorities like the mayors of San Isidro, Ilobasco, and Sensuntepeque.

This new case of violence has arisen because the violence and threats that have occurred in Cabañas since 2007 remain in impunity. I ask that you please take the necessary measures to assure justice and protection for those affected.

Thank you in advance for your efforts to begin thorough investigations and I hope that soon there will be justice in these cases.  I will continue to follow the actions of the Attorney General’s office and the National Civil Police (PCN) and will continue informing my elected officials about these cases.


Call Script for Attorney General Barahona (direct number for his assistant, Hector Burgos: 011-503- 2230-6350)

Buenos (días/tardes)

Mi nombre es_______________________ y llamo para expresar mi preocupación sobre la desaparición de Juan Francisco Duran Ayala y la violencia contra líderes sociales en Cabañas.

Urge una investigación profunda sobre la desaparición del Señor Duran Ayala con un equipo especializado, y así también es necesario re-abrir los casos de Marcelo Rivera, Dora Alicia Sorto y Ramiro Rivera para investigar vínculos entre estos caso, los asesinatos de Darwin Serrano y Gerardo Abrego León, las nuevas amenazas contra el personal de Radio Victoria y la desaparición del Señor Duran Ayala.

El hecho de que la violencia y amenazas anteriores quedaron en impunidad ha permitido que surgieran los nuevos hechos de violencia. Pido que el Fiscal General tome las medidas necesarias para asegurar justicia y protección para las y los afectados.

Gracias


Call Script for Minister of Justice and Security Manuel Melgar (direct number: 011-503- 7070-0081)

Buenos (días/tardes)

Mi nombre es_______________________ y llamo para expresar mi preocupación sobre la desaparición de Juan Francisco Duran Ayala y la violencia contra líderes sociales en Cabañas.

Urge una investigación profunda sobre la desaparición del Señor Duran Ayala con un equipo especializado, y así también es necesario re-abrir los casos de Marcelo Rivera, Dora Alicia Sorto y Ramiro Rivera para investigar vínculos entre estos caso, los asesinatos de Darwin Serrano y Gerardo Abrego León, las nuevas amenazas contra el personal de Radio Victoria y la desaparición del Señor Duran Ayala.

El hecho de que la violencia y amenazas anteriores quedaron en impunidad ha permitido que surgieran los nuevos hechos de violencia. Pido que el PNC tome las medidas necesarias para asegurar justicia y protección para las y los afectados.

Gracias.

And we’d like to thank the folks at CISPES and US Sister Cities for their hard work in drafting the letter and script!

Cheyo Castellanos – Mayor of Ilobasco
Advocacy, Cabanas, Mining, Organized Crime

More on Radio Victoria

On Friday, we posted an appeal for funds to help protect our friends at Radio Victoria from the threats of violence they’ve been receiving. To everyone who has already contributed – thank you! Over the weekend you helped us raise $2500! But that’s only a small part of what the Radio needs to implement additional security measures. If you haven’t donated, its not too late – please click on the donate now button to the right of this post. Its fast, secure, and tax-deductible, and 100% of your donation will go directly to the Radio for security.

In December 2010, some of the folks at the Radio made a short documentary about their current situation, which is posted below. Since they made this video, the Radio and its staff have received many, many other threats and have been terrorized by people following them home and loitering outside the Radio at night. Please watch:

We don’t know exactly who is making the threats, but members of the radio and other locals believe its a network of organized criminals, which may include local politicians, who are threatened by the Radio’s programming and the strengthening of civil society. The Radio gives a voice to the people – and the last thing organized criminals want is an empowered population and civil society interfering with their work and calling for an end of the culture of impunity upon which they depend to engage in their illicit activities.

Please join us in helping to protect the lives of these brave young journalists and ensuring that the Radio and local civil society continues to give a voice to the people of Cabanas.

Economy, El Salvador Government, International Relations, Mining

Ecuador’s Article 422 to Set Example for Rest of Region?

As El Salvador prepares for the next round of hearings before an International Commission for Settlement of International Disputes (ICSID) tribunal, a growing chorus of civil society organizations is calling for a renegotiation of CAFTA-DR (the Central American Free Trade Agreement). Their primary complaint is that the settlement dispute provisions in CAFTA-DR give private corporations the right to sue sovereign nations over investment disputes, limiting the country’s ability to protect its workers and environment. Though an ICSID tribunal recently dismissed the Commerce Group’s claim against El Salvador, Pacific Rim Mining Company’s suit claiming an estimated $100 million in lost investments and profits, lives on. You can read more about the Pacific Rim suit here, here and here).

In recent years, Ecuador has had to defend itself in several investment trade disputes similar to the one Pacific Rim has brought against El Salvador. As a result, when Ecuador adopted a new constitution last year, they included a provision (Article 422) that protects the country from international investors. Article 422 could set an important precedent for other nations in the region, including El Salvador.

Currently, Ecuador has been the subject of thirteen investment disputes before ICSID tribunals, the majority of which have involved oil and energy production. Of these thirteen cases, four were decided on the merits, three have been settled, one has been discontinued, and five remain pending. Though Ecuador won three of the four cases decided on their merits, the country has paid approximately $90 million in damages and settlements. These payments motivated Ecuadorans to reconsider their consent to ICSID and other tribunals.

Article 422 simply states that Ecuador will not sign treaties or international instruments in which the State cedes sovereign jurisdiction in instances of arbitration in contract or business disputes of any kind between the State and a natural or legal person. The exceptions are treaties and instruments that create dispute resolution mechanisms between States and persons in Latin America by regional arbitration or by judicial bodies from signatory countries.

Ecuador’s new approach has drawn both praise and criticism. Critics are concerned that parts of Article 422 are vague and will be difficult to implement, raising concerns about how it will affect Ecuador’s relationships with foreign investors. Without an adequate dispute settlement protection, the risk of investment increases, which could scare away much-needed development. Critics are also concerned that by opting out of arbitration in some cases but not others they are creating another level of discrimination in the Ecuadoran legal system, allowing domestic investors more rights than international investors. Such discrimination is troubling for a modern legal system that is supposed to be based on equality.

 

Supporters of Article 422 praise it as Ecuador’s protecting its sovereignty and national identity, which has been a priority for Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa. Though Ecuador has never been reflexively anti-U.S., the relationship between the two countries has been steeped in economic, political, and military pressure.  Article 422 is seen by many as a move to assert greater independence. It also contributes to a growing sense of Latin American regionalism by deepening the economic and political integration among its neighbors.

Though article 422 limits Ecuador’s exposure to investor-state arbitration, it allows investors to file a complaint in a domestic court. This will limit Ecuador’s exposure and protect their regulatory authority, while ensuring that investors have a way to protect themselves.

Ecuador’s move to protect itself against the onslaught of investor suits is an important development in the debate over investor-state relations. It also contributes to the renewed vision of Latin American regionalism. Whether other nations in Central and South American follow in Ecuador’s footsteps remains to be seen. But it is clear that the debate over investor rights in El Salvador and other countries is not over.

 

http://www.crowell.com/documents/ICSID-Arbitration-in-the-Americas_GAR_Ali_de-Gramont_Nov-07.pdf

 

http://www.iisd.org/itn/2008/07/17/in-depth-latin-america-s-new-model-bilateral-investment-treaties/

 

http://www.boalt.org/bjil/docs/BJIL27.2_Schill.pdf

 

https://litigation-essentials.lexisnexis.com/webcd/app?action=DocumentDisplay&crawlid=1&doctype=cite&docid=11+N.Y.U.+Envtl.+L.J.+19&srctype=smi&srcid=3B15&key=804bf01e38419d502b25eb2ea81ce9bc

 

http://www.asambleaconstituyente.gov.ec/documentos/constitucion_de_bolsillo.pdf

 

http://globalis.gvu.unu.edu/indicator_detail.cfm?Country=EC&IndicatorID=155

 

http://www.iisd.org/itn/2010/12/16/fairness-and-independence-in-investment-arbitration-a-critique-of-development-and-outcomes-of-investment-treaty-arbitration/

 

http://www.iisd.org/pdf/2006/itn_may16_2006.pdf

 

Advocacy, Cabanas, Corruption, El Salvador Government, Mining, Organized Crime, Politics

Hector Berrios Received Another Death Threat

Hector Berrios, an attorney and activist in San Isidro, Cabañas, received another death threat this past Sunday, the latest of a new wave of violence and threats in the region.

On Saturday night, Hector received several calls on his home and mobile phones, but when he answered the caller hung up. On Sunday, just after noon, the caller finally spoke when Hector answered. The caller, who identified himself as Ricardo, advised Hector, “they have paid a lot of money for us to assassinate you.” When Hector asked who had paid the caller, he responded that it was a man and a woman, and that they had been watching Hector in San Isidro and Mejicanos, a community in metropolitan San Salvador. The caller said that they wanted to negotiate a payment to the assassins not to kill Hector. In a letter detailing the conversation, Hector says that at that point he told the caller that he did not make agreements with people that he did not know, at which point the call ended.

Hector believes that the threat is likely the result of his speaking out against two murders in Cabañas, one on December 12 and another on January 2. Both victims had information about the June 2009 murder of Marcelo Rivera, an activist and community leader in San Isidro. One of the victims had information about the murders and the other was one of the material authors of the crime. Hector has also been speaking out against the attempted murder of William Iraheta who escaped an attempt on his life on December 12. Until a few months before the January 2009 municipal elections, William worked for Mayor Jose Bautista of San Isidro. He believes the mayor has tried on two occasions to kill him for information he has about some of the Mayor’s activities. In addition to these attacks and the threat against Hector, Radio Victoria received a death threat on January 11.

Unfortunately, the latest threats and violence are not unlike those we were writing about in 2009. Between April and December of that year, there were seven homicides in Cabañas that appeared to be linked to the debate over mining, accusations of electoral fraud and other controversial issues over which civil society actors opposed their local governments’ positions. In addition to the murders, reporters and staff at Radio Victoria were harassed, threatened and attacked, and other activists were attacked with machetes and continually threatened.

Hector Berrios and others in the region have been frustrated with the police and attorney general’s office for their unwillingness to continue investigating the crimes and consider the possibility that there might be intellectual authors of the crimes. Shortly after Marcelo was killed the police arrested several youth and labeled the murder a common gang crime and closed the investigation. The police and attorney general’s office similarly attributed the other murders, which all took place in Trinidad, Cabañas, to a family feud in which community rivals hired young assassins to kill their opponents.

We join Hector and others in denouncing the newest wave of threats and violence, and call on the police and attorney general’s office to conduct a thorough investigation.

Amnesty International released a call to action earlier today. Please respond by letting Salvadoran officials know that the international community is watching and their actions have been grossly insufficient.

Amnesty International points out that “Hector Berríos’ activism in his community has resulted in threats and intimidation before, due to his campaigns against mining, impunity and his legal defence of human rights activists. Hector Berríos has received threats on previous occasions. On 7 October 2009, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) ruled that El Salvador should provide protection to Hector Berríos. However, despite the demands from the IACHR, Hector Berríos has not yet received appropriate protection, and remains at risk.

PLEASE ACT QUICKLY. Use Spanish or your own language to create a personal appeal.

* Urge the authorities to take immediate steps to fully comply with the IACHR order of 7 October 2009. The form of protection provided to Hector Berríos must be agreed with him and reflect his own wishes.

* Call for an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the threats against Hector Berríos, with the results made public and those responsible brought to justice.

ADDRESS YOUR MESSAGES TO:

Attorney General: Romeo Benjamín Barahona Meléndez
Fiscal General de la República Fiscalía General de la República
Final 4ª Calle Oriente y 19ª Avenida Sur, Residencial Primavera,
Santa Tecla, La Libertad
San Salvador, El Salvador
Fax: 011 503 2523 7409
Salutation: Estimado Sr. Fiscal / Dear Attorney General

Human Rights Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

David Morales Director General de Derechos Humanos
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores
Calle El Pedregal, Blvd. Cancillería
Ciudad Merliot, Antiguo Cuscatlan
El Salvador
Fax: 011 503 2231 1152

Salutation: Estimado Director / Dear Director

AND PLEASE SEND A COPY TO

Sra Ana Coralia Mejía de Morot-Gaudry
Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of El Salvador
209 Kent Street
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 1Z8
Fax: (613) 238-6940
E-mail: embajada@elsalvador-ca.org
Mining, violence

New Threat against Radio Victoria

Radio Victoria is denouncing another death threat, received on January 11, 2011.  The letter was pushed under their door sometime during the night, despite the presence of supposed 24 hour police protection.  This is the first threat following over a year of silence.

They reported the threat to the police and attorney general’s office and were advised to give these institutions a chance to investigate.  Since then, Radio Victoria has only received one phone call from the Criminal Investigations Division (DIC).  No other evidence has been collected or pursued.

Over the past year and a half, we have posted numerous stories about Radio Victoria, a community-based radio station in Cabañas. Between 2006 and 2009, Radio Victoria’s staff received a terrorizing series of threats and attacks for their reporting on issues such as Pacific Rim’s efforts to mine gold in Cabañas; allegations of electoral fraud during the 2006 and 2009 municipal elections; and other controversial issues. In July 2009, the Radio was vandalized and much of its equipment destroyed, temporarily knocking them off air.

Yesterday’s threat follows a wave of political violence in the region that claimed the lives of two youth and sent another person into hiding (see our post on January 4). These threats are very real and civil society remains very much under attack in Cabañas. Even though Pacific Rim’s efforts to mine gold in the region have not advanced, civil society organizations are still very much in need of the support and solidarity of the international community.

 

Cabanas, Corruption, Mining, Organized Crime

Another Wave of Violence in Cabañas

Another wave of political violence swept through Cabañas, El Salvador over the Christmas Holiday resulting in the murders of Darwin Serrano and Gerardo Abrego León, and the attempted murder of William Iraheta. While the latest victims may not have the name recognition of Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera, Dora Alicia Recinos and the others murdered in 2009, the attacks are directly related and just as important.

On Sunday December 12, 2010, assassins attacked and killed Darwin Serrano (a.k.a. “El Pato”) with a machete in the community of Agua Zarca, a Cantón of Ilobasco, Cabañas – the same community where Marcelo Rivera was killed in 2009. According to a local source with knowledge of the case, El Pato was a minor when he participated in the murder of Marcelo. Police arrested and held El Pato in the juvenile detention facility in Ilobasco, but released him due to “overcrowding,” which is most unusual. When he was released, several people warned the police and prosecutor’s office that his knowledge about who ordered and paid for Marcelo’s assassination put his life in danger. The police responded that they would keep an eye on him. Subsequent to El Pato’s release, the court convicted three other gang members of murdering Marcelo and three others of conspiring to kill Marcelo.

The same day that assassins killed El Pato, they also tried to kill William Iraheta at his home in San Isidro, Cabañas. William testified that when he arrived home at 10 pm on December 12th, several men begin shooting at him. He escaped unharmed by sliding down an embankment behind his house. Just before the shooting, William saw the attackers, including two gang members he recognized, riding in a truck owned by Omar Chopa. This was the second time a contract had been taken out on his life. In 2009, a gang member known as Paco Jayo said that Jose Bautista, the Mayor of San Isidro, hired him and another gang member to kill William – they were arrested on other charges before they were able to complete the task.

On January 2, 2011 assassins shot and killed Gerardo Abrego León (a.k.a. El Gato) in the community of Quesera, another Cantón in Ilobasco, Cabañas. Sources in Cabañas report that El Gato was a key witness in the assassination of Marcelo Rivera.

These latest attacks appear to be motivated by a desire to cover up previous crimes, specifically the murder of Marcelo Rivera. Each of these victims was allegedly able to link a powerful network of local politicians and economic interests with the murder of Marcelo Rivera. William Iraheta was also active in denouncing Mayor Bautista for election fraud during the 2009 municipal elections.

Local police and the prosecutor’s office never investigated the possibility that there are intellectual authors of the violence in 2009. Instead, they attributed the murder of Marcelo Rivera to gang violence, and murders of Ramiro Rivera, Dora Alicia Recenos and four others in Trinidad to a family feud. Nor have they investigated the most recent murders or the attempted murder of William Iraheta.

News coverage of the 2009 murders has decreased over the past six months, but domestic and international organizations have continued to investigate possible intellectual authors. Their focus has turned from Pacific Rim Mining Company, which tried for several years to secure mining permits for a site in San Isidro but was met with fierce resistance from local activists, to the network of local politicians and economic interests, which is allegedly involved in organized criminal activities such as drug trafficking and money laundering.

Local sources suggest that the network of local politicians, which supported Pacific Rim’s efforts to mine gold in Cabañas, tried to use threats and violence to limit the growing influence that civil society has in the region. Organized crime rings depend on a culture of impunity and a passive citizenry to conduct their illicit activities. Local leaders such as Marcelo Rivera threaten the culture of impunity and encouraged local citizens to participate in local policy debates and hold local politicians accountable for their actions. As civil society voices’ grew, the network of politicians seem to have responded by hiring gang members and others to threaten and even kill local activists.

Darwin Serrano, William Iraheta, and Gerardo Abrego appear to have been targeted because they could link Mayor Bautista and others back to some of these crimes, including the murder of Marcelo Rivera.

Though the debate over mining, which is what drew the international community’s attention to Cabañas, is not as active as in previous years, civil society organizations still very much need our support. The tension between the local civil society organizations that led the anti-mining movement and local power structures continues to grow and result in threats and violence.

In the coming weeks we will work with others to organize a call to action, and we ask that you stay tuned in, and make sure that those responsible for the violence in Cabañas no longer enjoy impunity for their crimes.

Advocacy, Cabanas, El Salvador Government, Environment, Mining

More Mining Companies Solicit Exploration and Exploitation Permits in El Salvador

FMLN diputada Lourdes Palacios, representative to the Legislative Assembly’s Committee on the Environment and Climate Change recently voiced concern about the country’s stance on mining practices in an October 21 Diario CoLatino piece. Her primary concern is the increase in applications (from 26 to now 73) for metallic mining exploration permits to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN, according to its Spanish acronym).  She said that while the Committee has neither made much progress on the new Mining Act (which would ban mining) nor on reforms to the current Mining Act (which has been in force since 1996), it is still important to continue discussing the issue and seek out information and opinions.  She affirmed that the Committee considers the issue to be urgent, both with regards to reforming the law and, in the FMLN’s stance, definitively banning mining in El Salvador. ARENA diputado Vicente Menjívar said he supported the idea of allowing these metallic mining exploration permits under “a good law.”

Herman Rosa Chávez, head of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, brought the issue to light on October 12 in front of the Committee, stating that the 73 applications for metallic mining permits were not the only cause of concern.  Additionally, there are another 10 applications for extracting subsoil metals.  “The Minister of Environment himself has confirmed to us that there are more applications for exploration, and not only for extracting gold and silver, but also for bronze, aluminum and cadmium… There are other minerals in the country, as is known, but metallic mining is incompatible due to the territory’s limited space and socio-environmental damages,” Palacios emphasized.

Rosa Chávez stated that MARN is currently conducting a “Strategic Environmental Evaluation of Mining,” and posited that the government should consider enacting a moratorium to effectively ban incoming applications for mining permits until MARN finishes its evaluation.  He estimated that the evaluation would be ready in the first quarter of 2011. The Spanish government is funding the $200 million-dollar study. He also noted that MARN had not conducted any public consultations with the settlements near the zones where exploration permits had been requested, nor would he reveal any specifics about the companies or exploration sites. Rosa Chávez clarified in an October 13 Diario CoLatino article that MARN could not release its official position on the mining issue until the study is concluded, since little is known about the harm that these minerals under consideration in the permits (such as copper, aluminum, and thallium) can cause to the environment and human health.

The recent applications for exploration and exploitation permits were submitted with full knowledge of the country’s stand, or lack thereof on mining. An article posted on NoALaMina.org, posits that these mining companies hope the government will deny their applications so they may also file claims with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and demand millions of dollars in compensation for lost profits, just as Pacific Rim Mining Company and the Commerce Group have done. NoALaMina.org believes that the mining companies are abusing the Central American Free Trade Agreement and that El Salvador could potentially face as many as 83 multi-million dollar lawsuits from unscrupulous companies. Even if the mining companies are not looking for a lawsuit, they may be soliciting permits in anticipation of a ban on mining, hoping fora grandfather clause that would allow them to mine.

Mining interests may also see the government’s Environmental Evaluation of Mining as a sign that the government will begin granting permits. In January 2010, when Salvadoran officials announced their plan for the Environmental Evaluation, mining activists in Cabañas were concerned that the government was producing a report that would justify mining. In September 2010, when the government contracted with the Tau Group to conduct the survey, Condor Resources PLC, a UK-based exploration company, stated that they were encouraged by the government’s action and hoped they would soon have permits for their projects in San Miguel and on the border of Cabañas and San Vicente. Mark Child, the Chairman of Condor, even stated,

“The EAE will inform the Government how to conduct exploration and mining in a safe, secure and environmentally friendly manner. The hope is that the Government adopts recommendations from the EAE, amends the current mining law accordingly and issues permits. Condor awaits the findings of the EAE with interest.”

Whether the mining companies soliciting permits are laying the groundwork for more claims under CAFTA or believe El Salvador will soon grant permits is impossible to know at this point. No matter the motive, Lourdes Palacios and others on the Committee on the Environment and Climate Change ought to continue pressuring for more information and a real ban on mining.

 

Cabanas, Mining

Pacific Rim heads to Panama

This morning Pacific Rim announced that they are starting the process of acquiring Clifton Mining company’s Remance project in Panama. This announcement comes less than 24 hours after Pacific Rim announced they are delisting from the NYSE AMEX.  While Pacific Rim tried to put a positive spin on the delisting announcement, its a fairly serious development in the company’s ability to raise the capital necessary to continue its operations in El Salvador, including their expensive CAFTA claims. The timing of the announcement is surely a signal from Tom Shrake and Catherine McLeod-Seltzer that they aren’t throwing in the towel quite yet.

The terms of the deal seem pretty good for Pacific Rim – it’s a formal option agreement that allows Pacific Rim to explore and apply for permits before committing to purchase. Upfront they will pay Clifton $200,000 and give them 5 million shares of Pacific Rim stock, which is selling for around $0.20/share. If at the end of an “Option Period,” during which Pacific Rim will explore, complete its environmental analysis, and apply for permits from the Panamanian Govnerment, Pacific Rim wants to take 100% ownership of the mine, they will pay Clifton $5,000,000 in cash or common stock.

Even with such good terms, Pacific Rim will still need to come up with the capital for their new exploration activities. Their delisting from the NYSE AMEX makes them pretty unattractive for most investors.  Unless Pacific Rim or Clifton already has a financer lined up, its hard to see how they will be able to do much with their new property.

In the company’s press release they stress that the Remance site is geologically similar to the El Dorado site in Cabanas – meaning that there is a lot of gold that could make them rich. They also point out that unlike El Dorado, the Remance site is in a remote location with few inhabitants and no agriculture. I suppose after tangling with civil society organizations in Cabañas and the complexities of Salvadoran politics, Tom Shrake and Catherine McLeod-Seltzer need a more remote location – somewhere quiet where they can go lick their wounds.

Cabanas, Mining

Pacific Rim Notifies NYSE Amex of its intent to Delist

Pacific Rim announced today that it is voluntarily delisting itself from the New York Stock Exchange. This is the latest sign of the companies financial troubles stemming from their failure to obtain exploitation permits to mine gold at their El Dorado site in Cabanas. Here is the press release from the Pacific Rim website:

PACIFIC RIM NOTIFIES NYSE AMEX OF ITS INTENT TO DELIST

Pacific Rim Mining Corp. (“Pacific Rim” or the “Company”), has filed a notification with NYSE Amex Equities (“NYSE Amex”) to voluntarily delist its common shares from the exchange. The Company’s common shares will continue to trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange (“TSX”) and once delisted from NYSE Amex, will automatically trade on the Over the Counter Bulletin Board in the US. As the Company remains a Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) registrant, it is concurrently commencing a listing application for the Over the Counter QX (“OTCQX”) platform, a more rigorous OTC trading platform option available to SEC-registered issuers.

On November 12, 2009 the Company announced it received notice from the NYSE Amex that, based on its review of the Company’s fiscal 2010 first quarter results, the Company was not in compliance with Section 1003(a)(iii) of the NYSE Amex Company Guide, having at July 31, 2009 stockholders’ equity of less than $6,000,000 while sustaining losses from continuing operations and net losses in its five most recent fiscal years. The Company submitted a Compliance Plan (the “Plan”) on December 11, 2009. On February 11, 2010 the Company announced it had been notified by NYSE Amex that the Plan had been accepted. Details of the NYSE Amex notifications are provided in the Company’s news releases #09-09 and #10-02 dated November 12, 2009 and February 11, 2010 respectively.

The Company’s Plan included several key milestones, the most critical of which was to improve shareholders’ equity through a financing based on one or more of receipt of the El Dorado permit, resolution of the CAFTA action or the acquisition and exploration of a new project. The mid-plan milestone of increasing shareholders’ equity to a minimum of US $6 million has not been met and as a result the Company believes it is not meeting the terms of its Plan. Furthermore, the Company is not able to ascertain with confidence whether it will be in a position to regain full compliance with the NYSE Company Guide by the end of the Plan period (May 2011) as the majority of the factors on which ongoing compliance would be predicated are outside of the Company’s control.

The Company’s strategy over the past few months has been to work towards obtaining resolution of the permit issue before raising capital in a weak market to avoid diluting shareholders. The Company continues to try to negotiate with the El Salvadoran government in order to obtain the mining permit, which is expected to enable the Company to raise capital more efficiently to develop the El Dorado project and continue with additional exploration in the Americas while minimizing dilution. In addition the Company is searching for new exploration projects that will benefit its shareholders.

While the acquisition of a new exploration project is currently being pursued, the level of financing, on that basis alone, required to regain compliance with NYSE Amex’s Company Guide would, in the opinion of management, be onerous and dilutive to existing shareholders. Rather, the Company believes that if and when it is successful in acquiring a new exploration project, its financing requirements should be based on its exploration objectives and value objectives rather than the objective of the NYSE Amex.

Lastly, as the Company has greatly reduced its level of business activity at a time when listing costs and standards continue to escalate, management believes ongoing listing on NYSE Amex is not currently practicable.

To effect the delisting, the Company intends to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission a Form 25, Notification of Removal from Listing and/or Registration, on or about August 30, 2010. The Company expects that trading of its shares on the NYSE AMEX will be terminated on or about September 9, 2010. Until the AMEX delisting becomes effective on or about September 9, 2010, the Company’s common stock will continue to trade on the NYSE AMEX under the symbol “PMU” with “.BC” after its trading symbol to reflect its non-compliance with the NYSE AMEX listing requirements.

About Pacific Rim
Pacific Rim is an environmentally and socially responsible exploration company focused exclusively on high grade, environmentally clean gold deposits in the Americas. Pacific Rim’s primary asset is the high grade, vein-hosted El Dorado gold project in El Salvador. The Company also owns several similar grassroots gold projects in El Salvador and is actively seeking additional assets elsewhere in the Americas that fit its focus.

On behalf of the board of directors,
“Thomas C. Shrake”
Thomas C. Shrake
President and CEO

For further information contact the Company at 604-689-1976 or 1-888-775-7097 or general@pacrim-mining.com or visit http://www.pacrim-mining.com

Cabanas, El Salvador Government, Mining

The Government of El Salvador files New Objections with the ICSID Tribunal

On August 3, the attorneys defending El Salvador in Pacific Rim’s claims before the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) submitted another round of preliminary objections, challenging Pacific Rim’s right to file a claim under CAFTA.

Pacific Rim sought arbitration in 2009, claiming that the Salvadoran government violated their rights under the local Investment Law and Chapter 10 of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). In January of this year, El Salvador’s attorneys filed a first round of preliminary objections, arguing that even if the facts are accepted as true the Government did not violate Pacific Rim’s rights. On August 2, the panel rejected those objections. This latest round of objections, challanges Pacific Rim’s right to file a claim under CAFTA. Their first argument is that Pacific Rim abused the arbitration process by changing their nationality just to file a claim under CAFTA. From December 2004 through December 2007, Pacific Rim was registered in the Cayman Islands, which is not a signatory to CAFTA. Communication between the Ministry of the Environment, which reviews applications for environmental permits, and Pacific Rim ended in 2006, long before “Pacific Rim Cayman’s nationality was changed from the Cayman Islands to the United States.” El Salvador argues that because the entirety of the events being considered took place before Pacific Rim was registered in the United States the court ought to dismiss their claims.

El Salvador’s second argument is based on the denial of benefits provision of CAFTA. They argue that while Pacific Rim Cayman filed the suit, the interested party is really Pacific Rim Mining Corporation, which is registered in Canada. El Salvador also argues that Pacific Rim Cayman has no real investment interests in the United States, and therefore should be denied the benefits of CAFTA arbitration. Similarly, the Government’s third arguement is based on the principle of ratione temporis, which states that a Court only has jurisdiction for actions or crimes that occur after a statute comes into force. El Salvador believes that because the facts and events leading to arbitration took place before CAFTA came into force, Pacific Rim is barred from making a claim under CAFTA. Their final argument is that Pacific Rim’s claims based on the Investment Law ought to be dismissed because Article 15 of that law does not constitute consent to jurisdiction as required under Article 25 of the ICSID convention.

Since the process began last year, the Government of El Salvador has given little indication as to its strategy or its willingness (or lack thereof) to negotiate a settlement. On August 2, after the tribunal announced their decision on El Salvador’s initial preliminary objections, Tom Shrake said “with this phase of arbitration now completed, we hope to resume a mutually beneficial dialogue with the GOES to resolve the impasse on the El Dorado project.” When El Salvador filed a new set of objections just a day after these comments, they sent a clear signal that they were in no mood to resume a dialogue, and instead were digging in for a long fight that could get very expensive for Pacific Rim.