El Salvador mining ban a victory for democracy over corporate greed
El Salvador has become the first country in the world to pass a nationwide ban on metal mining. The landmark legislation passed with a landslide of 69 votes out of a possible 84. It was supported by all parties.
The negative impacts of mining on El Salvador has stimulated a broad-based social movement in the country, which only recently won a £205 million ($250 million) ‘corporate court’ investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) case against Australian-Canadian mining company, OceanaGold.
War on Want Senior Programme Officer Sebastian Ordonez Munoz said: "This is a historic moment for El Salvador and for a social movement which has long demanded that the needs of the people and environment of El Salvador supersede mining industry profits.
"El Salvadoran people have a human right to water, and this must be protected above the interests of corporations seeking to profit from exploiting the country’s resources."
War on Want Senior Trade Campaigner Mark Dearn said: "El Salvador has already faced down an anti-democratic secret court case because it dared to enact progressive legislation to protect its people and environment.
"It is a fundamental obligation of states to safeguard their populations, and it is a disgrace that any country should face a multi-million dollar lawsuit for doing so.
"If mining corporations decide to attack this landmark progressive legislation, they will once again demonstrate their utter disregard for democracy and the lives and livelihoods of people in the global South."
In 2009, then Canadian mining company Pacific Rim – subsequently acquired by Australian-Canadian firm, OceanaGold – launched an ISDS case against El Salvador after it was refused a mining permit. The El Salvador Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources estimates that 90% of the country’s surface water has been polluted largely due to the mining industry.
At one point, the company demanded $300 million – twice the amount the country receives in development assistance. El Salvador spent $12 million on its defence, while OceanaGold was ordered to pay $8 million legal costs.
The ban prohibits all exploration, extraction and processing of metals, whether in open pits or underground. Mining for salt, stones or sand will still be allowed under the ban, which also forbids the use of cyanide and mercury in mining.
Notes to editors
For more information, contact Ross Hemingway on +44 (0) 7983 550 728 or Mark Dearn on +44 (0) 7804 289 680
OceanaGold-El Salvador ISDS case: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/oct/14/el-salvador-world-bank-tribunal-dismisses-oceanagold-mining-firm-250m-claim