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Ricardo Navarro, chair of CESTA-Friends of the Earth El Salvador said at a press conference on Monday: “We think the position of the Salvadorian Association of the Industry Sector (ASI) is dishonest because they want to get profits, money, they seek to benefit corporations that will extract gold”.
At the press conference, Salvadorian organizations of the Mesoamerican Movement against the Mining Extractive Model, dubbed M4, rejected a request made by the ASI before Congress to allow mining exploitation in the country and to reject a bill proposing its suspension.
“Mining exploitation in the form found in El Salvador is microscopic, it requires large amounts of water. Exploiting gold means leaving agriculture out of water.”, said Navarro.
ASI’s chair, Javier Ernesto Siman signed a letter that the association sent to representative Francisco Zablah, who presides the Legislative Assembly’s Environment Committee dated ‘February 2013’.
The letter begins by sayng “I hereby express the opinion of the Salvadorian Association of the Industrial Sector regarding the bill sent to the honourable commission of the Ministries of Economy and Environment, which proposes the temporary suspension of all mining operations in El Salvador”.
The letter explains that “said bill does not contribute to the sector’s development, which can imply a real possibility for development in the country by creating jobs, revenues, exports and social responsibility, environmental and industrial development” This is just a summary of the letter where the ASI lists the advantages of mining.
At the press conference, Navarro said mining activity “implies the destruction of the whole ecosystem to extract gold”. He highlighted that the amount of water needed for mining affects the food sector. “Chemicals, toxic substances are needed. Then, in combination with the water all that is left is acid waste, acid sewage. Some of these substances is the cyanide needed to extract gold”. Therefore, mining “is a highly polluting process and those who benefit from this activity extract gold and silver and then leave the country”, said CESTA’s chair.
However, before ending the conference Navarro challenged ASI to a public debate to confront their ideas. This intention was confirmed by leader Mauricio Vanegas of the M4.
“We are very concerned about the lobby that ASI is doing with the Legislative Assembly to request that the bill under discussion is not passed”, said Vanegas. He said the association “is not taking into account any of the negative impacts” that mining causes on water and on the Salvadorian people. “We urge the Legislative Assembly to proceed with the passing of the bill to guarantee that mining does not take place in the country”.
To this Navarro added: “The main message to the Legislative Assembly is that they should not allow mining in El Salvador, to ban metal mining in El Salvador, period. That is the message”.
In an interview published by Real World Radio last December, Salvadorian priest Neftali Ruiz Martinez of the Environmental Committee of Cabañas department spoke about the threats, murders and criminalization of community members that began the resistance to Canadian corporation Pacific Rim’s gold and silver extraction project called “El Dorado”.
At least four community members have been killed by hired assassins since 2009 in that Salvadorian region. “Mining corporations are like the devil: they come here to kill and divide people”, said Ruiz, who suffered death threats and attacks as a result of his commitment to the environment.
Some of the community members who were murdered, now considered “environmental heroes” by the residents of Cabañas, were brutally tortured before being killed.
“No queremos ser mártires, no queremos que hayan más mártires en este país, pero también hay una responsabilidad histórica de hacer valer la palabra y demostrar que tenemos derecho a la construcción de un mundo mejor. Y no podemos huir a esa responsabilidad”, dijo a Radio Mundo Real la dirigente garífuna Miriam Miranda, coordinadora de la Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (OFRANEH).
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