Threats to the Law Against Metallic Mining

Mirian Garcia - Varguardia

Organizations that were key players in the struggle to prohibit metal mining in El Salvador, expressed their concern about the upcoming legislative political balance of power which could jeopardize their victory.

A year has passed since the Law against Metallic Mining was approved. The prohibition is a victory resulting from almost 13 years of struggle led by organizations and civil society. The battle against all forms of metallic mining is not over in El Salvador. The rapidly changing political situation represents a danger for environmental organizations that fought and continue fight to eradicate the mining threat from the national territory.

Member organizations of the Central American Alliance against mining such as ADES, ARPAS, CRIPDES, CCR and UNES expressed their concern about a political shift in the Legislative Assembly that may be interested in repealing or watering down the Law against Metal Mining, approved in 2017.

Bernardo Belloso, from CRIPDES, said that although the approval of the law set a precedent in Latin America, there is still no mechanisms to regulate its implementation. A specific example is the lack support offered to artisanal miners (known as güiriseros) to assist them in transforming their mining activities into more sustainable alternatives.

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How El Salvador Won on Mining

Esty DInur - The Progressive

In March 2017, El Salvador, a country with deposits of gold and silver, became the first and only country in the world to ban all metallic mining.

The process took twelve years, according to Pedro Cabezas, who runs the mining and human rights program of CRIPDES, the largest rural organization in the country and a leader in the Salvadoran social movement. It is a story of popular organizing, which American and other activists might want to pay attention to and learn from. It is also a tale of collaborations across causes, sectors, geographic areas, and national borders.

El Salvador has a history of small artisanal mines, including a small mine in San Sebastián which was started some 100 years ago by local people. However, mining wasn’t an important part of the economy until the 1970s, when Commerce Group Corp. of Waukesha, Wisconsin, started operating the mine, turning the San Sebastián River waters orange from the chemicals, including cyanide, arsenic, and mercury, that seeped into it. Local people can’t use the water for drinking, washing, or watering their crops, and there are numerous cases of cancer and respiratory diseases in the area. Most mining stopped during the civil war that raged from 1980 to 1992.

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Looming threats to the mining prohibition in El Salvador

P. Cabezas

looming threatsIn March 2017, El Salvador became the first country in the world to ban metallic mining. But the huge victory of the antimining movement and the international recognition it has garnered may be overshadowed by a current electoral campaign that threatens to reverse the legislative balance of power in favor of the prohibition in the short term, and the executive government´s  in the mid-term.

At a recent event organized by the National Roundtable Against Mining to commemorate those who lost their lives in Cabañas during the struggle, leaders from communities that were most affected by mining projects said that some political battles are still pending to ensure the long-term sustainability of the mining prohibition. “First we need to ensure that the Attorney General’s office investigate the intellectual authors of the murders of environmental defenders who were assassinated in 2009, second we need to ensure that Minerales Torogoz, and the El Dorado Foundation leave Cabañas, and third we need our government institutions to generate sustainable economic activities in the region so those toxic companies never come back” Said Domingo Miranda, president of the La Maraña Environmental Association.

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A year with a bitter taste in environmental matters in El Salvador

Alfredo Carias: Vanguardia

In the midst of an important victory in El Salvador, an evaluation of the social and environmental conditions in the country contrasts to the achievements obtained with the prohibition of mining.

According to the Salvadoran authorities, progress has been made in the area of ​​environmental protection, although they acknowledge that there is still a lot to be done, said Ángel Ibarra, Vice Minister of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN).

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