Posts Tagged ‘Mining’

Hope for the Environment: Elections 2015

February 19, 2015

Yesterday, February 19th, the Environmental Alliance, a coalition of anti-mining, food sovereignty, and water protection organizing bodies, invited legislative candidates across all parties to take part in a forum in front of civil citizens.  However, only Blandino Nerio (FMLN-National Liberation Front Farabundo Martí), Nery Diaz (FMLN), and Blaudilio Ventura (PSD-Social Democratic Party), all from the left side of the political spectrum, presented themselves.


Candidates (L-R) Ventura, Nerio, and Diaz

Before the candidates promulgated their platforms, members of the Alliance gave an overview of the current environmental situation in El Salvador. Due to the country’s location, El Salvador is victim to numerous natural disasters such as volcanos, hurricanes, and earthquakes. However, global climate change augments all of these natural forces, which has been cause for much concern in recent years. This past year’s drought when the prices of beans increased 100%, calls attention directly to the severe environmental threats that El Salvador faces.

The Anti-Mining Coalition highlighted the current and proposed mining sites around the country. The business jeopardizes the remaining 10% of El Salvador’s treatable water source. The Water Coalition expressed their concern that the Salvadoran people do not have the right to access, however small, that portion of potable water.

All members of the Environmental Alliance demanded that the law to protect and prevent natural threats along with the constitutional reform of Article 69 which would guarantee the sovereignty of food and water be approved by the legislature. Both initiatives have spent years in congress and are running out of time before they expire.

When it came time for the candidates to respond with their platforms, it became obvious that all present were playing for the same team: the environment. Nerio, of the FMLN, cited all of the past actions that the FMLN took to protect the environment and to curb climatic changes. He said, “As you can all see, this isn’t a new issue for us to support. However, if there is no mobilization in the streets, we aren’t going to achieve anything.”

Diaz, also from the FMLN, has worked tirelessly as a member of the Legislative Assembly’s Environmental and Climate Change Commission. She promised to continue to dedicate her time in the legislature to fight for the protection of all of El Salvador’s natural resources.

Ventura (PSD) echoed this same message of being with the people in their struggle. He enthusiastically declared, “We are not in favor of the privatization of water or food. Water should be a public good. We are in favor of the people and the environment.” Ventura promised that not even one vote would be cast for the furthered degradation of the environment.

Although, a lack of diverse ideologies were present, the overwhelming enthusiasm that all panel members exhibited gave all those in the audience hope for real action surrounding the environment and climate change to come soon.


Que Viva la Democracia! Moving forward on Mining Ban

September 25, 2014

mining sjlf

Photo Cred: International Allies Against Mining in El Salvador

The municipality of San Jose Las Flores in Chalatenango, one of El Salvador’s northern departments bordering Honduras, historically has found itself in struggles for rights to resources located in the region.  Up until September 21st, 2014, this narrative prevailed. The citizens of San Jose Las Flores decided to put Salvadoran democracy to the test. Last Saturday, the municipality held a community consultation regarding foreign mineral mining on their land, an act that would contaminate local and national  water sources and force them to relocate. 67% of those eligible to vote, an impressive turnout, arrived at the various voting centers within the municipality to let their voices be heard. A resounding 99% voted down the mining proposition. According to Salvadoran municipal code and national law, this consultation is legally binding. San Jose Las Flores became the first town to completely ban mining. This area, as long as the law is upheld, is the only municipality in El Salvador to protect its natural resources in this manner.

This community consultation not only legitimizes Salvadoran democracy in Chalatenango but it also gives hope to the rest of the country. Currently, the government of El Salvador is being sued in a World Bank tribunal for not allowing Canadian/Austrialian mining company, PacificRim/OceanaGold to operate in El Salvador.  The company filed the case on the grounds that El Salvador acted against the free market agreements between North and Central America. OceanaGold identifies northern El Salvador as a lucrative gold production site. However, the Salvadoran government denied their request for permits in recognition of the environmental, health, and social implications of gold mining. If the company wins, the government will be forced to either allow OceanaGold to mine or to pay the company a fine amounting in hundreds of millions of dollars. There is no speculation when it comes to assessing the environmental and societal impacts on El Salvador if PacificRim/OceanaGold wins the case. Neighboring Honduras allows mining extraction, which has since left the rivers toxic, complicating access to clean water sources, and introducing hundreds of cases of skin disease. National borders don’t keep polluted waters from flowing in to the next country. Mining in Honduras (not to mention if mining begins in the northern region of El Salvador), has provoked great concern over cyanide entering the Lempa River watershed. This particular watershed provides over half the Salvadoran population with water for cooking, cleaning, washing, and drinking, including the majority of the population in San Salvador.

There are also social implications attributed to mining in Honduras. The mining issue pits family members and neighbors against each other. On one side, there are those whose livelihoods depend on the jobs provided by the mining industry. However, there are others raising awareness of the environmental and health repercussions caused by mining exploitation. This same issue already burdens Salvadoran society.

As people in solidarity with El Salvador, we cannot let that happen. We want to see more large scale action like that in San Jose Las Flores.  Let your voice be heard today and sign this petition demanding that OceanaGold drop the case and get out of El Salvador!

Stop Mining in El Salvador!

September 29, 2013

New Law Proposed by Mesa Nacional Frente al Mineria

"We demand approval of the Law that Prohibits Metallic Mining"

“We demand approval of the Law that Prohibits Metallic Mining”

On Tuesday, September 17th the Mesa Nacional Frente la Mineria Metalica (MESA), or National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining held a public forum to unveil their new proposal for a law which will prohibit all forms of metallic mining in El Salvador.

Mining has ravaged the Salvadoran countryside since the early 1800s, polluting rivers for generations and displacing thousands of Salvadorans. Communities in rural El Salvador have had enough; El Salvador is the most vulnerable country to climate change in the western hemisphere, largely due to deforestation, which future mining would only exacerbate.

Metallic mining has the worst environmental track record of any type of mining. This method relies on the use of lethal chemicals to extract desired metals like gold, silver, and copper. The method proposed for mining projects in El Salvador uses two tons of cyanide to extract one ounce of gold.

The Mesa represents communities that are affected by mining and will present this new proposal to the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly on October 1st.

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Action Alert: In Solidarity with Honduras

August 2, 2013

Since the 2009 coup, the situation in Honduras increasingly mirrors El Salvador in the 1970´s, with growing militarization, repression, and violent murders of activists and community leaders. In response to this growing crisis, the people of El Salvador and Honduras call for solidarity and accompaniment. SHARE partners CRIPDES and CONFRAS have been particularly active in promoting solidarity with Honduras. SHARE El Salvador is in a unique position to offer years of experience in solidarity. In the words of Marcos Galvez, president of SHARE partner CRIPDES: 

¨Las luchas (the struggles) that the Honduran people have faced before, during, and after the coup are similar to las luchas de El Salvador. As a people, we need to be in solidarity with other pueblos. El Salvador received solidarity during decades in which this marked the difference in preventing massacres, disappearances, political imprisonment, and other acts that could have happened. As Salvadorans who know the importance of solidarity, we call on the international community to accompany Honduras. ¨

Members of the CCR, a SHARE counterpart protest the ongoing repression in Honduras on the 4 year anniversary of the coup June 28, 2013

Members of the CCR, a SHARE counterpart protest the ongoing repression in Honduras on the 4 year anniversary of the coup June 28, 2013

While Hondurans face a variety of struggles that began long before the 2009 coup – many similar to those in present-day El Salvador: proposed mining and hydroelectric dams, access to land and credit, access to media, respect for women’s, LGBT, and indigenous rights, and youth repression to name a few – since the coup the government response to civilian organizing has been to send in the military.  Two recent incidents highlight the intensity of the current situation: the murder of indigenous community leader Tomas García during a protest of a hydroelectric dam on July 15th, and the kidnapping of two international accompaniers from the Honduras Accompaniment Project (PROAH) on July 25th.  

Take Action! Ask your representatives to end U.S. military aid to Honduras!

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Creative Protest Calls for Ban to Cerro Blanco Mine

March 5, 2013

“We are calling on the Guatemalan government to stop this mining project and on the Salvadoran government to guarantee the rights of Salvadorans!”

Over 150 enthusiastic members of the Mesa (National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining) and other solidarity groups gathered outside of the Guatemalan Embassy to protest the Vancouver-based Goldcorp’s Cerro Blanco mine on Tuesday, February 26.

A group of thirty supporters dressed up and danced the Harlem Shake to bring attention to the protest

A group of thirty supporters dressed up and danced the Harlem Shake to bring attention to the protest

Led by Alejandro Labrador of the Mesa, a group of thirty staged an anti-mining Harlem shake, with participants dressed as mining company owners, gold, Mother Earth, and water. Surprisingly this is not the first Harlem Shake in El Salvador, but it was a very creative one! 

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Mining: Stop Contaminating My Home!

February 5, 2013

Representatives want to see long-term change in mining practices, not temporary solutions

Representatives want to see long-term change in mining practices, not temporary solutions

The National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining (Mesa) and the International Allies Against Metallic Mining held a press conference at the CRIPDES offices yesterday morning. The Mesa spoke out in solidarity with Honduras and Guatemala, and the Allies spoke in solidarity with the Mesa. Alex Early, a representative of Sister Cities, presented the International Letter of Support for the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador. As members of the International Allies, SHARE staff attended the conference to show their solidarity with the Mesa. The press conference highlighted several important issues:

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Radio Victoria Broadcasts for the People, despite Threats

January 17, 2013

The National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador (the Mesa) needs international support in order to make demands of the affected populations of El Salvador heard by policy-makers. Please help us support the fight against mining by signing this petitionThe petition calls on the Milwaukee-based mining company Commerce Group (1) to cease further mining pursuits in San Sebastian, El Salvador, (2) to take responsibility for the environmental contamination, and (3) to drop its court case against the Salvadoran government under CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement).

Radio Victoria's programming coordinator sat down with Drew Theological school students and SHARE's Sarah Hall (left) to talk about the Radio's history and presence in the anti-mining struggle.

Radio Victoria’s programming coordinator sat down with Drew Theological school students and SHARE’s Sarah Hall (left) to talk about the Radio’s history and presence in the anti-mining struggle.

With Canadian mining company Pacific Rim threatening to invade El Salvador’s countryside, Radio Victoria wants to bring awareness to Salvadorans about the potentially fatal effects of mining. Radio Victoria, a member organization of the Mesa, broadcasts to the rural communities surrounding Ciudad Victoria within the Cabañas region, using their presence to spread awareness on a global level.

On Tuesday, January 15th, students from the Drew Theological School delegation met with Radio Victoria’s programming coordinator to discuss the beginnings of Radio Victoria and its current role in society. According to the coordinator, refugees founded Radio Victoria upon their return to Santa Marta in 1987 after fleeing to Honduras during the war.

Because many guerrilla fighters occupied Santa Marta, there were rumors surrounding the community that these members of Ciudad Victoria were “people of a different kind”, and therefore unworthy of having their city rebuilt. To dispel these rumors and bring a voice to the marginalized rural populations, members of the community created Radio Victoria and made their first broadcast on June 15, 1993. According to the programming coordinator, “it was a magical experience to hear family and friends send out their messages”.

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ADVOCACY ALERT! Petitions Against Mining in El Salvador

January 9, 2013

We challenge you to stretch your activist muscles now that those hazy holidays have come to a close by signing two petitions, one for organizations to sign and the other for individuals, to fight against metal mining in El Salvador.

Protesters at the anti-mining  march in Sensuntepeque in October 2012

Protesters at the anti-mining march in Sensuntepeque in October 2012

As the debate around mining in the Salvadoran National Assembly heats up, the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining in El Salvador (the Mesa) is calling for international support as they struggle to protect environmental and natural resources. As the Mesa declared, “If [the] government really cares about guaranteeing sustainability and improving the quality of life for the population, instead of looking for a superficial solution […], it should promote a ban on metallic mining through a new Mining Law that explicitly reflects the profound socio-environmental crisis we are suffering in El Salvador.”

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A Call to Action

October 22, 2012

Everyone came out to support the cause because everyone deserves to grow up in a healthy environment.

SAN SALVADOR OCT 4th: The gritty battle to shut down mining in El Salvador continued during H2O week’s (Oct. 1st-5th) march for water security and a ban on mining. Protesters insisted, “We will keep protesting and fighting until it is no longer necessary.”

About 2,000 protesters gathered in front of the Legislative Assembly building on Inter-American Water Day to pressure the Legislative Assembly to pass a law banning metallic mining, Strategic Risk Management Law, and the General Water Act. Together, all three laws seek to provide greater water security for vulnerable populations, some of which have no access to clean water. 

97% of El Salvador’s water is already contaminated, and the other 3% is of poor quality. Thus far, the mining movement has been successful in preventing active mining, but the proposed mining exploration would use as much water in an hour as a family in El Salvador uses in two years. They would contaminate freshwater aquifers, soil, and surface water with cyanide, rendering the water toxic and threatening traditional economic activities such as agriculture and livestock. Protesters hope to pass a law that would permanently prevent mining in El Salvador.

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Hope and Frustration in Murder Trials of Salvadoran Environmentalists

April 19, 2012

Organizers flyer the Pacific Rim Mining Company sign in Sesutepeque, Cabañas. Photo courtesy of

On April 11, 2012 the trials for the murders of  two environmentalists in in Trinidad, Sesutepeque, Cabañas – including (Ramiro Rivera and Dora Sorto – who was 8 months pregnant at that time) came to an end with six members of the 18th Street gang being sentenced to between 30-145 years in prison.  Unfortunately, the conclusions of  prosecuter in the Court of Specialized Sentencing  were  incredibly disappointing.  According to prosecutor’s hypothesis, none of the murders are linked to environmental activism against mining. Instead, they blame personal fueds that existed between families in the area.  Following this logic,  5 suspects were relased. In a statement by released by the Environmental Comitee of Cabañas they denounced this decison.

Similar reasons were cited in the case of Marcelo Rivera, an  anti-mining activist who was murdered in Cabañas in 2009. While it’s true that there are tensions and conflict within communities impacted or threatened by mining, many of them have been caused by the proposal of mining projects. Some community members are enticed by the projects such as schools and soccer fields that mining companies have offered, while others have spoken out and organized against mining because of the destructive impacts for humans and the environment.

The following is an article from La Prensa Grafica outlining the prosecutions denial of a connection between anti-mining activity and the violence:

10 prosecuted for murders of environmentalists

Source: La Prensa Grafica By Suchit Chavez, Wednesday, April 11, 2012

On April 10th, the Court of Specialized Sentencing in San Salvador began a trial against 10 people accused of involvement in five murders, including two environmentalists, which occurred in 2009 in the small community of Trinidad, in the municipality of Sensuntepeque (Department of Cabañas).

The defendants, according to the prosecutors, are supposedly close to two families in the conflict.

Most of the violent deaths occurred in December 2009. Within days of each other, Ramiro Rivera, Felicita Argueta and Dora Alicia Sorto were killed in different parts of the Trinidad community. At the time Rivera and Sorto were identified as activists against active mining projects in the area. Months earlier in the same area, two relatives of a man linked to mining, Horacio Menjivar and his wife, Esperanza Velasco were also killed.

The chief prosecutor of the Organized Crime Unit (UNICCO), Rodolfo Delgado said yesterday that following his investigation, prosecutors ruled that the crimes were not related to the activity of the mining company.

According to Delgado, “these families had previous quarrels with each other.” Activity for and against mining exacerbated ​​these alleged attacks, he said.

Delgado declined to specify what the prior arguments were about, or if they had ballistic tests that connected the cases. The prosecutor stated this was due to the fact that the trial was still ongoing. He added, however, that two witnesses gave statements indicating there was allegedly a history of problems between the families.

The killing of Marcelo Rivera, another environmentalist, occurred in June 2009 in another town in Cabañas, and was disconnected by the chief prosecutor to the case currently being processed in the Court of Specialized Sentencing. In September 2010, three people were sentenced to 40 years in prison for the murder of Rivera.

 –Translation by SHARE staff

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