Agua/Aqua, Climate Change, Environment, Water/Agua

Environmentalists Demand the Ratification of the Anti-Mining Law

Press Conference: 1st Anniversary of the Prohibition of Metal Mining
March 4, 2018, San Salvador

On the 1st anniversary of the prohibition of metallic mining in El Salvador
environmentalists demand that the new Legislative Assembly continue
to reinforce and strengthen the law.

On March 4th, El Salvador voted overwhelmingly right-wing in its local government and legislative assembly, this means that many of the initiatives and laws, like the anti-metallic mining law victoriously won last year could be daily overturned.

Many of the new legislative assembly member are pro-mining, some to the degree of being associated with mining tycoons. These activists, demand that the law not be overturned, ignored or slowly taken apart. The civil society also called on the Catholic church to recommit their support in the face of this apparent threat.

The groups propose that the anti-mining law previously decided upon during the last administration to be ratified, or uphold, in order to ensure the environmental sustainability of El Salvador. They also continue to demand the consideration and ratification of the laws guaranteeing the right to Water and Food Security.


Climate Change, El Salvador Government, Environment, Mining

MOVIAC Environmental Reflections

This morning, the Movement of Victims Affected by Climate Change and Corporations (MOVIAC, in Spanish), published a two-page statement in Diario Co Latino on pending environmental issues in El Salvador – the Pacific Rim claim in the World Bank tribunal and the proposed ban on mining, Climate Change and the current economic model, the recent signing of the Millennium Challenge Corporation grant, and the Legislative Assembly’s failure to recognize water as a basic human right. MOVIAC wants the new Sánchez Cerén administration and the Legislative Assembly to be doing way more than they are.

Voices staff translated the MOVIAC statement to English and have attached it below along with the original in Spanish. (We will update this post with a link to the digital copy of today’s Co Latino when it is available.)


0925 publicacion Reflexiones ambientales(1)








Cabanas, Mining

Canadian Embassy Denies Access to two of its Own in San Salvador

Yesterday morning (June 13), a small group of anti-mining activists held a peaceful protest and press conference on the sidewalk in front of the Canadian Embassy. The protest was the culmination of a two-week effort by anti-mining activists to hand-deliver a letter to the Canadian Embassy asking them to end their support for Pacific Rim’s lawsuit against El Salvador. (For background on the lawsuit and Pacific Rim’s efforts, click here and here).

One highlight from the event was when two Canadian law students (Erica and Leah) who are interning for Voices on the Border and FESPAD this summer, tried to enter the embassy to deliver the letter, and talk to Embassy officials about the case. The Embassy turned them away without explanation. Yesterday afternoon, Erica wrote:

“This is outrageous treatment. Any citizen of any country is allowed to enter their embassy while traveling abroad – that’s what embassies are for. Your political affiliations don’t affect this basic right, nor do your stances on controversial issues. The embassy is Canadian territory. As citizens, we have the right to enter our embassy. They do not have the right to refuse entry to law-abiding Canadians.”

When they pressed the issue with security guards, they received word from Embassy officials that one of them could enter if they had document problems, otherwise they could not enter. That’s true solidarity! Erica and Leah experienced the kind of exclusion that Salvadorans and impoverished people around the world experience every day as they try to defend their environment, protect their economic security, and build a healthy life for their children.

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Yesterday’s events came almost two weeks after the International Center for Settlement of Investor Disputes (ICSID) tribunal announced their decision on preliminary objections in Pacific Rim’s lawsuit against El Salvador. This round of objections focused on jurisdiction – determining whether ICSID had the authority to hear Pacific Rim’s claim against El Salvador. In their lawsuit, Pacific Rim argues that El Salvador violated rights protected under the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and El Salvador’s investment law. The tribunal decided it did not have jurisdiction to hear the CAFTA claims (Pacific Rim is a Canadian firm and Canada is not a CAFTA signatory), but that it would hear the claims under El Salvador’s investment law.

Following the decision, Gus Van Harten, Associate Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School, said,

“The case will now be one of the rare ones that proceeds under the host state’s domestic law on investment, but it is no less threatening than the treaty cases because of this. The arbitrators retain essentially the same wide-ranging powers, including to decide what a regulatory expropriation is, what is fair or unfair regulation, etc…. and to award damages or make affirmative orders against the government. Their award will also be widely enforceable in the manner of any treaty case.”

The Salvadoran Attorney General has tried to spin the decision as a victory, and that CAFTA works, but few agree. Pacific Rim’s lawsuit is still alive and a victory under Salvadoran law is just as enforceable as a victory under CAFTA.

What happens next remains a little unclear. It could be that Pacific Rim and El Salvador proceed to the next phase of the trial. Pacific Rim will present their complaint and EL Salvador will present their defense. Then the tribunal will hand down their decision. Or it could be that Pacific Rim and El Salvador negotiate a settlement; though El Salvador has yet to indicate they’d even consider doing so.

There is another, more extreme option worth mentioning, if for no other reason than highlighting El Salvador’s more serious problem – the fact they give corporations the right to sue them in the first place.

Historically, individuals and corporations did not have the right to sue a country – only a country could sue another country. That began to change when the U.S., Mexico, and Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which gave corporations the right to seek arbitration if a signatory country appropriated an investment. International law still dictates that a country has to submit to jurisdiction, and unless they have, individuals and corporations cannot sue. By signing CAFTA, the U.S., Mexico, and Canada all agreed that they would give international courts jurisdiction to arbitrate any disputes with investors.

El Salvador first submitted to jurisdiction in 1999 when the Flores Administration and ARENA-controlled Legislative Assembly passed the Foreign Investment Act – the law Pacific Rim is using now. The also agreed to give international tribunals jurisdiction to arbitrate disputes when they signed CAFTA and other trade agreements.

Professor Van Harten suggested after the recent ruling that one way El Salvador could get out of the Pacific Rim suit would be to repeal part or all of the 1999 Investment Law and no longer submit to jurisdiction. The Legislative Assembly would have to explicitly state that the law is retroactive and apply to any current actions. While that would likely be a popular move at home, it probably wouldn’t go over well with the U.S. and other international bodies, and it seems unlikely that the Salvadoran government would put those relationships at risk without careful consideration.

Withdrawing from jurisdiction may be something El Salvador wants to do anyway. Pacific Rim is only one of many mining companies that have applied for but not received exploitation permits from the Salvadoran government. If Pacific Rim is successful in their lawsuit, many others will likely follow. If El Salvador is unsuccessful in defending itself, it may end up granting more than 30 mining permits or face defending itself against an equal number of very large lawsuits.

Another reason to withdraw jurisdiction from international arbitration panels like ICSID is because future trade agreements may grant investors even more protection and rights than NAFTA and CAFTA.

Just yesterday, Public Citizen published a report on the investor protection provisions in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a trade agreement being negotiated by Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the U.S. According Public Citizen’s analysis, some of the most outrageous provisions would:

  • Limit how countries can regulate foreign firms operating within their jurisdiction, with requirements to provide them with greater rights than domestic firms;
  • Establish a two-track legal system that gives foreign corporations to avoid domestic courts and laws, and sue States in foreign tribunals; and
  • Grant foreign corporations the right to demand compensation for financial, health, environmental and land use regulations they claim undermine their TPP privileges, and demand compensation for costs of complying with financial or environmental regulations that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms.

El Salvador is not a signatory to the TPP, and the agreement has not even been signed or ratified, but the pendulum seems to be swinging very far in favor of these kinds of pro-investor rights. Once that is the standard, any efforts to protect local environments and resources are subject to the desires of international corporations… until countries organize and push the pendulum back to protect their interests.

Corporations and the U.S. have worked hard to keep concerned citizens and civil society groups from influencing negotiations of these trade agreements. Public Citizen’s account of how hard the U.S. has worked to keep the TPP negotiations sounds a lot like the CAFTA negotiations eight and nine years ago. While Corporations and business interests have a say in the process, concerned citizens and civil society organizations are left on the sidewalk to protest.

In that context, it’s not really surprising that the Canadian Embassy denied Erica and Leah (the Canadian law students interning in El Salvador) entry to the Embassy – they were hanging out with the wrong crowd. Perhaps if they were interning for Pacific Rim or any other international corporation they  would have had a different experience.

Cabanas, Mining, U.S. Relations

Oxfam Petition on El Salvador and Mining

Word on the street is that the ICSID (International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes) tribunal hearing Pacific Rim Mining Company’s lawsuit against El Salvador will hand down a decision on the second round of preliminary objections before the end of the month. (Here is an article and a webpage with good information on the case).  Pacific Rim, a Canadian firm based out of Vancouver, filed suit against El Salvador over three years ago for not granting them the permits necessary to extract gold from their Cabañas properties. Between 2002 and 2008, Pacific Rim allegedly invested $77 million in exploring properties in Cabañas and other parts of El Salvador. When the government and people of El Salvador said the mining company could not mine, Pacific Rim sued to recover their investment, lost profits, and damages. If Pacific Rim wins, they could receive a judgment worth more than $100 million.

El Salvador responded to the lawsuit by filing two rounds of preliminary objections, asking the court to dismiss Pacific Rim’s claim on procedural grounds. The first round of objections was unsuccessful, and we should hear about the second round in the next week or so. If the Tribunal finds in favor of El Salvador, they could dismiss part or all of Pacific Rim’s case. If they find for Pacific Rim, the mining company’s suit lives to see another day.

Oxfam is currently organizing a petition asking U.S. citizens to demand that the U.S. end their support for Pacific Rim and their claim against El Salvador. The petition reads:

Act Now: Speak up for El Salvador’s Right to Decide

In El Salvador, communities are fighting for their right to decide how companies can use their lands. Many of them have made a decision: they don’t want the metal mining industry to continue to destroy the environment they live and farm in. And they’re paying the price – each day, community leaders and activists face threats of violence and death because they’re standing up to metal mining companies.

What’s making this fight even harder? Right now, Canadian mining company Pacific Rim is trying to force El Salvador to keep metal mines in business by suing El Salvador for $77 million under the US-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). This case could not only cost El Salvador a significant portion of its GDP, but it could prevent citizens from deciding which industries develop in their country.

A win for El Salvador in this case means that El Salvador could choose to stop metal mining – for good. The US government’s support for El Salvador over Pacific Rim in this case has been crucial. That’s where you come in. Will you help us make sure the US supports El Salvador in this case?

Tell Secretary of State Clinton: Support the people of El Salvador.

Please visit the Oxfam site and sign the petition!

The petition is important because some within the US State Department associate anti-mining with being anti-development. They argue that if El Salvador passes a law that bans mining, it means the country is hostile to foreign investment. In 2009, Former Chargé d’Affairs Robert Blau wrote a cable to the U.S. Secretary of State with the Subject line: “New Environment Ministry Moves to Ban Mining, Sends “Anti-Development” Signals.” A ban on mining is not anti-development, it is respecting the wishes of the people who would be most affected by its disastrous environmental impacts.

The cable is worth a read. We recognize that Robert Blau has a pretty extreme view of U.S. foreign policy and that his view may not represent everyone within the Embassy (Blau is no longer at the Salvadoran Embassy). His view, however, exemplifies how neoliberalism affects policies in countries like El Salvador. The same people who want to gut the EPA and remove the environmental regulations that protect air, soil, and water in the U.S., also want to remove any barriers that might prevent them from pillaging resources around the world. Any efforts to protect the environment and the communities where people live are called anti-development.

The petition is important because we have to make sure the State Department understands that Salvadoran communities said no to mining because they want to protect their very limited natural resources. They are not anti-development, rather they don’t want their vision of development trumped by an international corporation that is only interested in profit. The U.S. should not support Pacific Rim and other corporations, but ought to respect the wishes of the affected communities.

Oxfam’s petition is not the only anti-mining news to report. Yesterday the MESA (Roundtable Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador) released a statement expressing their frustrations with the Salvadoran government’s inaction on mining. , the government commissioned a Strategic Evaluation of the Mining Sector to determine whether mining was feasible in El Salvador. The report was supposed to inform the Legislative Assembly and government ministries on how to manage mining, and whether they ought to pass an all out ban on mining, which is what the MESA has been advocating.

The MESA is frustrated with the lack of transparency in completing the study and the release of its findings. They recently filed a request for information about the report under El Salvador’s relatively new Law on Access to Public Information. They also requested information about what mining companies have applied for or hold mining permits. Lina Pohl, the Vice-Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources recently said the only possible scenarios are the suspension of mining permits (so far for just exploration, no mining company currently has an exploitation permit), and not granting new ones. The MESA believes this to be insufficient and that the study fails to take on the most important issues concerning the impact that mining would have on the country. They call on the government to be more proactive in defending Salvadorans and banning mining altogether. The MESA has posted several interviews on Youtube detailing these issues. If you speak Spanish, they are worth watching.

Please sign the petition today!

Cabanas, Mauricio Funes, violence

President Funes Condemns the Murder of Activist Juan Francisco

Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes condemned the murder of environmental activist Juan Francisco Durán Ayala, according to a press release issued yesterday.  He went on to express sympathy for Durán’s family and acknowledge the loss that this murder and others that have occurred in Cabañas represent for the environmental movement.  The president offered to provide “more security to the environmental movement, because its struggles and demands are just,” before reiterating his opposition to the Cabañas mining project.  “I will not put the public health of the population at risk in exchange for some additional income that we could receive,” he said.







Today, the President of the Republic, Mauricio Funes, emphatically condemned the murder of Juan Francisco Durán Ayala, a volunteer with the Environmental Committee of Cabañas, which was carried out by unknown subjects June 3rd.

“As President of the Republic I lament any murder that happens in the country, regardless of motives, of course I feel the pain of the family and the environmental movement in loss of these four leading environmental defenders” expressed President Funes upon condemning the murder of Durán Ayala and the three other environmentalists who have been killed in recent years in the department of Cabañas.

Durán Ayala, 30 years old, was disappeared last June 3rd, one day after he was hanging signs about the campaign against mining in the city of Ilobasco as part of his environmental activism.

President Funes said he would ensure the will and the investigative capacity of the Civilian National Police Force, to be able to identify those responsible for the murder and moreover he offered to give “more security to the environmental movement, because its struggles and demands are just.”

“I will not allow any mineral exploitation project in the country, I have said that and it is my official position”, affirmed the Chief of State and he reiterated that the Ministry of the Economy has clear instructions not to authorize any mineral exploitation projects in the country.

President Funes pointed out that he is convinced that even when a mining project can bring some jobs and income for the government through taxes, the cost of the environmental impact and the damage to public health is much greater.

“I will not put the public health of the population at risk in exchange for some  additional income that we could receive,” the President emphasized.


San Salvador, June 28th, 2011

**Translated by U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities

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.


Cabanas, El Salvador Government

Update on Pacific Rim Lawsuits Against Cabañas Activists

On Wednesday we posted about Pacific Rim Mining Company’s newest lawsuit, which targets seven Salvadoran anti-mining activists over an incident that took place on November, 14 2006. Despite having threatened a lawsuit at the time and having had four years to prepare their case, when Pacific Rim arrived in the Sensuntepeque Court on Wednesday morning they asked the judge to postpone the hearing so they could have more time to prepare.

Pacific Rim accuses the defendants of aggravated robbery, destruction of property, and deprivation of liberty. These claims arise out of the November protests in Cerro Limon, a small, rural neighborhood in Canton Trinidad where Pacific Rim’s Santa Rita mine is located. The La Prensa Grafica article that we cited in our first post mentioned that the case revolved around stolen pliers and screwdrivers. Over the past couple days, we’ve called people familiar with those protests and read some old articles to figure out if there is more to it than that.

The events themselves were quite significant – it was the first time protestors successfully shutdown Pacific Rim’s exploration activities. We did not, however, have any luck getting information about specific events that would lead to the seemingly serious charges that Pacific Rim is now pursuing.

A Diario Co-Latino article from November 2006 called the protests the “first victory against the metallic mining projects.” They report that community members from Trinidad had been asking that Pacific Rim stop exploration activities at the Santa Rita mine, which had only begun on November 9, 2006. Their requests went unanswered. On Monday, November 13, protestors went to the top of Cerro Limon and tried unsuccessfully to block access to the Santa Rita mine. The next day, November 14, the protestors returned to Cerro Limon and demanded that Pacific Rim dismantle their machines. The Diario Co-Latino article quotes Miguel Fuentes saying openly that they “threatened to throw the machines over a cliff and burn them,” if Pacific Rim did not dismantle them first. During a half-hour conversation with the protestors, Pacific Rim employees realized that the protestors were serious and agreed to stop operations and take apart their machines. They began dismantling the machines that day, but when night fell, the protestors agreed that they could finish the next day, which they did.

In December 2006, Pacific Rim mentioned the incident and the escalating tension in their monthly report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. They state, “since the commencement of its drill program on November 9, 2006 small, intermediate and localized protests have taken place at Santa Rita.” They also state, “In order to prevent further escalation of these protests, the Company has initiated a temporary suspension of its Santa Rita drill program so that a peaceful resolution can be reached between all parties.” In the same filing, they also reported that they had filed criminal complaints under Salvadoran law against the key instigators of the protests.

This incident was also significant in that it led to an agreement brokered between the protestors and Pacific Rim, in which Pacific Rim “agreed to suspend its Santa Rita drill program until such time as the NGOs environmental and social concerns could be addressed” and the protestors would stop protesting the site. The very public shutdown of the exploration activities and the negotiated settlement (no matter that it didn’t hold) between the protesters and the Pacific Rim allowed the anti-mining movement to develop broad domestic and international support.

A source who was at the protests over those few days said that though threats were made to destroy the equipment, there was no violence and no one was ever deprived of their liberty. And in the past week, Francisco Pineda has stated on a few occasions that they did not steal anything. Sources also report that representatives from the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights (PDDH, in Spanish) and the police were at the protests to make sure that it did not turn violent, and they witnessed the entire event.

Even if protestors made off with a couple pliers and screwdrivers, which does not seem the case, that was not Pacific Rim’s greatest loss that day. Pacific Rim had just opened the Santa Rita mine 5 days before. The protests and closing of the mine stalled their momentum and progress, and boosted the morale and support of the communities.

We can understand why Pacific Rim would not look back favorably on those events, but to replay them in court four years later over some tools seems bizarre. Maybe they have evidence and information that proves that other more serious issues are at stake – we’ll find out in the weeks to come. We don’t at all dismiss this case as a trivial matter; the opposite is true. This appears to be another in a long series of efforts to harass anti-mining activists.



Pacific Rim Files More Lawsuits???

Tension in the debate over Pacific Rim’s efforts to mine gold in Cabañas continues, even though the Canadian mining firm has not had a real presence in the region since 2008.

In this latest episode, Pacific Rim has filed a lawsuit against seven anti-mining activists in Cabañas, the province where Pacific Rim’s El Dorado property is located, accusing them of aggravated robbery, damage to private property, and deprivation of liberty.

According to an article buried on page 74 of today’s La Prensa Grafica, the preliminary hearings were to begin today at 10 am in Sensuntepeque. The charges arise out of an incident on November 14, 2006, when Francisco Pineda and six other defendants allegedly stole some screwdrivers and pliers.

Pineda told the Diario Co-Latino, “at no time have we deprived anyone of their liberty; at no time have we robbed.” In La Prensa Grafica he states, “for us the lawsuit is a continuation of the pressure that Pacific Rim has kept on us, a persecution with the objective of diminishing the protests that we have maintained against their exploitation projects.”

Over the years, Pacific Rim has filed or supported a number of petty lawsuits against community members in Cabañas for opposing their activities. Fermin Menjívar, who is named as a defendant in this latest suit, endured a series of lawsuits in 2007, claiming that he had threatened Pacific Rim employees, including Andres Gomes Chicas. All of the fifteen charges filed against Mr. Menjivar were dropped.

In November 2007, Pacific Rim filed a lawsuit against Edelmira Menjívar, Fermin Menjívar’s aunt, claiming that she threatened to kill the husband of one of the community board members. Both Fermin and Edelmira lived with Luciana Vela (Edelmira’s mother and Fermin’s grandmother). Luciana owned a lot of land that Pacific Rim wanted to explore in 2007, but she would not give them permission to enter her property. Pacific Rim geologists visited her property several times pressuring her to sign over the rights to her land, but she refused. During one heated exchange, Luciana suffered a stroke that left her in a vegetative state. Pacific Rim never got to explore her property and that apparently made them mad. The court dismissed all charges against Edelmira.

In 2008, the principal of a school in Guacotecti, a municipality down the road from Pacific Rim’s El Dorado mine, painted the school with Pacific Rim’s colors, a violation of regulations that require public schools to be painted blue and white. A young teacher protested and the Ministry of Education ordered that the principal repaint the school. With the support of Pacific Rim, the principal filed a lawsuit against the teacher. The day of the hearing, Pacific Rim bused in a large number of supporters to attend the hearing. The judge dismissed the case for lack of evidence.

Pacific Rim has filed or threatened to file other lawsuits against other activists who have opposed Pacific Rim, but none of them have resulted in any charges or convictions.  One could argue that Pacific Rim’s CAFTA claim currently being arbitrated before an ICSID tribunal is the largest, most egregious of these lawsuits.

We find it difficult to conceive why Pacific Rim would waste their dwindling resources pursuing a lawsuit against seven Salvadorans over some screwdrivers and pliers.

Since 2006, the debate over mining has directly or indirectly led to seven homicides, several other violent attacks and attempted homicides, and a constant barrage of death threats. And Pacific Rim is worried about some screwdrivers and pliers that went missing in 2006?

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, 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. 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.