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In 2009, Pacific Rim, a Canadian mining corporation, filed a lawsuit against El Salvador before the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), as a response to the Central American country suspending the corporation´s permit to exploit El Dorado mine, in San Isidro, Cabañas department. El Salvador had made this decision after years of opposition by the communities against the gold extraction project.
In a few weeks, the ICSID will have to rule on this case, in which the company (now owned by Australian OceanaGold) demands the payment of 301 million dollars and accuses the Salvadoran State of breaking its Investment Law. In 2012, the company had to change its argument, since it demanded the payment of compensation under the CAFTA-DR (Free Trade Agreement between the US and Central America + Dominican Republic), something that was dismissed by the Court thanks to the defense team of the Central American country.
The decision by the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry of suspending the company´s exploitation permit was based on the lack of environmental impact assessments, among other requirements that hadn´t been met. Hundreds of national and local social movements and organizations exposed the risks of El Dorado project since the beginning of Pacific Rim´s operations in 2004.
Some of the main threats included the pollution of the river that supplies over half of the Salvadoran population: the Lempa River. The resistance against the project was met with attacks by the company, which criminalized the struggles of the local people and even threatened and murdered environmental leaders.
The Mesoamerican Movement against the Mining Extractive Model M4 organized a press conference on February 3 to warn about the bias of the court that benefits transnational companies. They also denounced the pressure exerted lately by OceanaGold in San Isidro.
“We are worried because this type of resolutions are made responding to the pressure exerted at international level (…) And we´ve been witnesses of the will of governmental organizations to accept the support of Pacific Rim in San Isidro” said Ricardo Navarro, chair of CESTA – Friends of the Earth El Salvador, at the press conference.
La oposición a la minería debe entenderse como la lucha por los derechos que esa actividad no respeta, pues “cada derecho que se le otorga a una empresa, es un derecho que se le resta a una comunidad”, asegura el coordinador del Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina (OCMAL), César Padilla.
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