Throughout history the people of El Salvador have been intimately connected with the land. The environment is the source of life and sustenance. SHARE is committed to supporting Salvadoran communities as they protect their right to a safe and clean environment.
The possibility of metallic mining directly threatens communities throughout El Salvador and indirectly threatens the source of life—water—of the entire country. Mining companies leak or dump high levels of chemicals, including cyanide, arsenic, lead, selenium, and cadmium, into natural areas, endangering biodiversity, depleting soil and water resources, wiping out fishing and agriculture livelihoods, and poisoning people.
The infant mortality rate around the Valle de Siria mine in Honduras is 12 times higher than the national average, and 50% of the surrounding population has developed skin rashes or legions.
The San Sebastian River, the site of a former Commerce Group mine, has cyanide levels 9 times higher than the acceptable limit and one thousand times the standard level of iron. The average mine uses 40 tons of cyanide a day in the mineral extraction process. Heavy medals already present in soil, such as arsenic, lead, selenium, and cadmium, are released during the mining process.
The average mine, like the El Dorado mine proposed in Cabañas, uses about 90,000 liters of water an hour, which is equivalent to what a typical Salvadoran family would consume in 20 years.
Read this myth debunking article for more information.
In 2006, national organizations and community-based groups came together to strengthen the movement against mining, creating the National Working Group Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador, the Mesa, to advocate on a local, national and international level against metallic mining.
SHARE has accompanied communities affected by mining exploration and the National Working Group Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador since its inception, through:
- Financial support for the Mesa to educate communities about the impacts of mining and organize advocacy campaigns in El Salvador;
- Participation in advocacy efforts throughout the United States, targeting mining companies and responsible Salvadoran government institutions;
- Educating delegations about the mining situation in Chalatenango and Cabañas and encouraging them to educate their home communities;
- Providing physical and moral accompaniment for anti-mining activists and organizations;
- Nominating the National Working Group Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador for the Letelier Moffitt Human Rights award in 2009;
- Supporting the investigation and legal case against Marcelo Rivera’s killers:
The struggle against mining has led to increased violence and community conflict in the department of Cabañas. In June of 2009, anti-mining activist and community leader Marcelo Rivera was kidnapped, tortured, and killed. He became the first victim in an ongoing series of death threats, harassment, and killings of people linked to the movement against mining in Cabañas.
With the entrance of CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), the rights of multinational mining companies to profits have been strengthened in El Salvador. Pacific Rim Mining Corp. is one major beneficiary and recent instigator of harmful mining practices; SHARE continues to advocate against companies like this along with The Mesa as part of the international force advocating for mining bans in Latin America.
In February 2013, the Mesa held a press conference to petition for the Salvadoran government to create legislation to ban mining in El Salvador. Alex Early, a representative of Sister Cities and former SHARE staff member, presented the International Letter of Support for the Mesa, which SHARE signed along with 79 other organizations, affirming that the negative impact of large-scale industrial mining in local communities is worldwide problem.
The press conference highlighted the 49 metal mining projects in Honduras and Guatemala that border El Salvador and impact shared watersheds, mainly the Lempa River. Toxic waste from mines in Guatemala and Honduras are discharged into rivers that connect to the Lempa River.
Since the Lempa River supplies 37% of El Salvador’s drinking water, any threat to the shared water source is a threat to human rights. El Salvador is already the most environmentally precarious and vulnerable country in the world according to the UN, has the second highest level of deforestation in Latin America, and lacks legal protection of potable water.
With dangerously high levels of contaminated water (98% of surface water), attributed in part to mining practices, and 95% of Salvadorans living in “high risk” areas for natural disasters, mining will further complicate the region’s increasingly complex water situation.
Because of the social, economic, human, cultural and environmental impacts of metallic mining, it is not a viable option for El Salvador. Metallic mining would lead to severe health impacts; create loss of land for subsistence farming and damage existing fields and cattle; and has already caused social instability, community conflict, and violence.
Starting in September of 2014, communities in Chalatenango and Cabañas have been holding community consultations where citizens decide whether or not they want mineral mining in their municipality. In both 2014 consultation, the people have spoken and responded with a resounding 95% against the mining companies entering their regions. These votes are sovereign meaning that the national government must recognize and uphold them. Several more consultations are scheduled to take place throughout 2015. ¡Que viva la participación del pueblo! ¡No a la mineria!
Read more about the anti-mining movement in El Salvador and TAKE ACTION today!