Mining multinationals exploit Central America

By: Patrick Weiniger

Patrick Weiniger

First published in:

El Salvadoran anti-mining campaigner Vidalina Morales recently toured Australia to raise awareness about the destruction that OceanaGold, a Melbourne-based company, is unleashing in her country. Red Flag’s Patrick Weiniger spoke to her about the issues.

For nearly a decade, Canadian-based multinational Pacific Rim has been trying to establish a gold mine in the small Central American country of El Salvador.

The project, in the department of Cabañas, has met strong opposition from the local community, whose water supplies would be poisoned by contaminants from the operation.

In 2007 the president of El Salvador prohibited the mine. But Pacific Rim is suing this desperately poor nation for US$315 million.

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El Salvador suffers Australia's maleficent miners

By: Andrew Hamilton

First published in:

In Australia, as elsewhere, the main business of mining companies is to find and seize opportunities to mine profitably. In order to proceed, they must also persuade governments that their proposals are in the national interest. Here, governments will be interested in the economic benefits of mining, as well as potential social and environmental impacts.

Although these requirements and processes are often lacking in rigour, large mining companies themselves recognise the importance of meeting them. The damage to their reputations caused by taking short cuts and alienating significant sections of the population can be far more costly than the profit made by particular mines.

But what is true of their behavior at home often does not hold true for the overseas operations of Australian mining companies. The recent visit to Australia of Vidalina Morales, who belongs to a community in El Salvador that oppose proposals to mine for gold by a company (Pacific Rim Mining) whose majority shareholder is Australia based miner OceanaGold, shows how the welfare of people is often jeopardised in the quest for profit.

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Australian-Canadian firm OceanaGold bails out Pacific Rim Mining Deal means more punishment for El Salvador

(Washington/Ottawa/San Salvador/Melbourne) On November 21, Pacific Rim Mining shareholders are poised to approve sale of the company to Melbourne-based OceanaGold in order to continue suing El Salvador in a World Bank tribunal. Pacific Rim has been suing the small Central American nation for not having granted it a mine permit ever since a presidential pronouncement to suspend all mining activity in the country. The last-minute deal rescues a sinking Pacific Rim Mining, while promising to cost Salvadorans millions more in an unjust arbitration process and raising fears of political interference.
The deal, valued at a mere $10.2 million for a swap of company shares, is a pittance compared to what the company hopes to extract from El Salvador, either through the $301 million arbitration suit or through reaching a deal with the Salvadoran government to advance a gold project in the northern department of Cabañas. In a press release, OceanaGold said it would try to negotiate a deal with Salvadoran authorities.
The National Roundtable on Metal Mining, a diverse coalition of civil society organizations in El Salvador, responded with concern to OceanaGold’s intentions, fearing undue pressure on legislators during electoral season. The coalition is already worried that legislators have stalled consideration of proposed legislation to ban metal mining in the densely populated country, which has widespread support across the country, including from the highest ranks of the Catholic Church.
“Salvadorans ask that this project be stopped. Canada has so many good people. Ask those transnational companies to stop committing terrible injustices and exploiting the people of El Salvador. We are not very happy about this judicial dispute, they are asking us to pay them millions. But if it comes down to it, I think it is better to pay the money, than to pay the consequences,” Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas recently stated to a Canadian national radio reporter.

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A plea to Australia: Put life & dignity before gold & profit

Edmund Rice Centre: ‘A difficult courageous story from El Salvador – but one that inspires.’

“Courageous and determined,” is how Edmund Rice Centre Education Officer Sean Cleary describes visiting grass-roots environmental advocate from El Salvador, Ms Vidalina Morales.

“The story that Vidalina brings to Australia from her community is frightening and outrageous, but also inspirational - to hear how the people of these rural worker communities have been able to unite to confront a multi-national mining company and so far, to forestall the threat that this gold-mine would pose to their water-supply, to their farm-lands, to their lives and to the lives of their children,” Mr Cleary said.

Vidalina has arrived in Australia to commence today a two week speaking tour “Water Not Gold” to raise awareness of the threat posed to the people of her village by the plans of Australian mining company OceanaGold to reopen production in a long-abandoned gold mine in El Salvador’s Cabañas province.

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To prevent water privatization: the next battle for Salvadorean environmentalists

P. Cabezas

More than one hundred member organizations of the Alliance Against the Privatization of Water in El Salvador mobilized throughout the country to deliver letters to regional Legislative offices to reject a recently proposed "Comprehensive Water Law", presented to parliament by a coalition of right-wing parties.

Sin título-6

The letter condemns renewed attempts to privatize water resources in the country and demands the reopening of the discussion on the General Water Law proposed by environmentalist movements in 2006.  

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PRESS RELEASE: Australia tour

Water Not Gold! Australian mining company threatens water security in El Salvador

Contact: Sean Cleary (Edmund Rice Centre) 0403 434 512, Vladimir Pacheco 0404 053 724

Brisbane, Australia – November 7th, 2013 - The National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining (La Mesa), a grassroots coalition in El Salvador, is up against OceanaGold, an Australian company trying to secure water for the ‘El Dorado’ gold mine in El Salvador.  OceanaGold is suing the Government of El Salvador as it attempts to push ahead with the development of the mine despite widespread community opposition.  

To put international pressure on OceanaGold to withdraw its lawsuit against El Salvador and to build a stronger support base in Australia, a representative from La Mesa will tour Australia in mid-November.

Vidalina Morales, a member of La Mesa, is a small-scale farmer and mother of five children who lives in a community negatively affected by the El Dorado mining project. She is recognised internationally as one of the leading voices of the environmental defence movement in El Salvador.

The “Water Not Gold!” tour will show how grassroots movements can become vital actors in protecting our sovereignty, demanding better corporate accountability and ensuring the future of our water within Australia and beyond.  

The “Water Not Gold!” tour will also highlight how mining can impact on human rights and the environment, and how free trade agreements can be used by corporations to undermine the interests of citizens.    

OceanaGold has a history of human rights violations in the Philippines where it operates the Didipio mine.  La Mesa is deeply concerned that the company will use the same tactics El Salvador.

The El Dorado mine will use significant amounts of water – this is is a gross injustice given that in rural areas of El Salvador few people have access to clean water. The mine will also use large quantities of cyanide which risks contaminating scarce water resources.

The Investor State Dispute Settlement provision of the Central American Free Trade Agreement allowed the previous owner of the El Dorado project (the Canadian miner Pacific Rim) to sue the government of El Salvador for US$315 million over its refusal to approve the development of the mine project.  OceanaGold is pursuing this lawsuit.  

Australia is considering adopting a similar provision as part of the Trans Pacific Partnership. This has serious repercussions for Australian sovereignty.
This tour has the support of Australian Unions, the Institute of Policy Studies, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam Australia, the Edmund Rice Centre, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network and the Mineral Policy Institute, and many others grouped under the International Allies Against Mining in El Salvador.  

Vidalina is available to meet members of the Australian media during her visit to Sydney (9th-13th),  Melbourne (14th-16th), Perth (17th-19th), Canberra (20th-21st) and Brisbane (21st-23rd). 

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