The introduction of mining projects in El Salvador has been met with a public consensus that the country’s fragile environment is not able to sustain industrial scale extractive projects. The size of country`s territory, over population, high vulnerability to natural disasters, the precarious condition of water resources, and unmitigated amounts of toxic waste already contaminating the natural environment are factors that have contributed to sway public opinion against mining. Public opinion polls have shown that over 60 percent of the population is opposed to mining.
Widespread opposition to mining has made it possible to halt the implementation of mineral exploitation projects until now. However, many challenges remain to ensure that the mining industry is prevented from increasing environmental vulnerability in the country. The Ministry of Economy through the Direction of Mining and Hydrocarbons maintains 29 active exploration licenses, and applications for over 60 exploration projects are currently in process. A law to prohibit mining has been introduced by civil society organizations at the legislative assembly but the government has failed to discuss it, maintaining only a de facto moratorium without legislative support. Despite of the fact that that two mining companies have sued El Salvador for over 400 million dollars under the ICSID, an international trade tribunal housed at the World Bank, El Salvador has continued to sign trade agreements that contain investor-state clauses that give corporations the right to profit over public interest, and to sue in foreign courts if their rights to profit are interfered with.
The failure of the current government to approve a mining ban has forced civil society organizations to sustain a permanent campaign to ensure mining projects are held back and to maintain public pressure for a permanent ban on mining. The National Roundtable Against Mining in El Salvador - La Mesa, a coalition of civil society organizations that include rural development organizations, faith groups, think tanks, and students groups, has led a national campaign against mining and to works with its affiliates to develop creative strategies to engage the public and affected communities in advocating for a mining ban.
The communities most affected by the introduction of mining projects in the country are the northern farming communities of the departments of Metapan, Chalatenango, Cabanas, Morazan and La union. All these communities have already felt the presence of mining companies in their territories and have developed organized resistance to extractive projects according to their particular circumstances.