Salvadoran activists target gold mine

Most Canadians probably haven’t heard about the murder of Dora Alicia Recinos Sorto in El Salvador on December 26. Sorto was pregnant at the time. Or the assassination of Ramiro Rivera Gomez less than a week before, on December 20, as well as the slaying of Marcelo Rivera Moreno last June.

The three victims were all Salvadoran antimining activists opposed to the presence of Vancouver-based company Pacific Rim Mining Corp. in their country. Pacific Rim has estimated that there are gold deposits of 1.4 million ounces at its El Dorado exploration site in Cabañas, 65 kilometres east of the capital city of San Salvador.

For SFU undergraduate student Ana Linares, there are things more important than gold at stake in the fight against the mining company. “There’s a fear that if Pacific Rim wins the right to mine in El Salvador, it will set a precedent for other mining companies to go and do the same thing,” Linares told the Georgia Straight. “The problem is that El Salvador is a very, very small country. It’s very densely populated, and so the people feel that the mining is not sustainable, especially with the water resources. There are water shortages in El Salvador. The biggest river in the country—the Lempa River—is highly endangered. There’s fear that the mining will also further damage an already vulnerable river ecosystem.”

Linares, who is of Salvadoran descent, has joined the campaign to raise public awareness in Vancouver of the activities of Pacific Rim. At the age of six, Linares arrived in Canada with her family in the mid 1980s as a bloody civil war raged in El Salvador.

“Canadians are well-known about [respect for] human rights,” she said. “But when we have Canadian mining companies”¦developing projects in Third World countries, it’s important for us to know the consequences of those projects, what is happening to the social and the cultural fabric of the people who oppose these mining projects.”

Pacific Rim has strongly denied any involvement in the killings. In a phone interview with the Straight, its Vancouver-based vice president for investor relations, Barbara Henderson, claimed that the company has enjoyed “overwhelming” community backing since it began operations in Cabañas in 2002. “Our experience working there has been overall extremely positive,” she said.

According to Henderson, the company stopped exploration activity at its El Dorado site in July 2008 following inaction by the Salvadoran government on its application for an environmental permit.

Last spring, through a Nevada-based subsidiary, Pacific Rim initiated arbitration proceedings against the government of El Salvador under the Central America–United States–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement. It claimed to have invested $77 million in the project. It will be seeking “damages in the hundreds of millions of dollars”, according to a company news release.

Vancouver resident Jose Angel is the coordinator of the Solidarity Coalition for a United Latin America. Like Linares and her family, he left El Salvador years before a United Nations–brokered peace agreement in 1992 ended the civil war. “What we want here in Canada to accomplish is for the government to accept Bill C-300, which talks about the respect of human rights, the respect of the environment when they [companies] are doing mining,” Angel told the Straight.

Angel was referring to Liberal MP John McKay’s private member’s bill, which passed second reading last spring. It seeks to require mining and oil-and-gas companies to act in a manner consistent with international human-rights standards in order to qualify for assistance from Export Development Canada, a Crown corporation. The bill also aims to prohibit the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board from investing in mining and oil-and-gas companies that don’t respect human rights.

“The river we have [in El Salvador] is just a creek compared to the Fraser River here in Vancouver,” Angel said.

Angel is organizing a candlelight vigil in memory of the murdered mining activists today (January 7) at 625 Howe Street, outside Pacific Rim’s headquarters. The event will begin at 4:30 p.m.

Comments (14) Add New Comment
is this one more example of expat guilt.... go and protect home....not the meantime we will mine ,farm ,or use your discarded homeland how we choose as long as people like you run away. regards cam
Rating: +5
Nope - not "expat guilt", but rather two Canadians of Salvadoran descent who are making a very important effort to bring this issue to more of us who live here in Vancouver - in the very place where so many destructive mining companies have their head offices. ¡Muchisimas gracias a Uds Ana y Angel!

For those of us who DO care about what our mining companies are doing to the people and environment of El Salvador, of Perú, of Bolivia and Ecuador, please go to websites such as Mining Watch for more information and to actively oppose oppression by Canadian companies - and who are using our own tax and pension dollars to do it! Mining Watch:

Rating: -7
racist coment cameron!!! Yes you are right your country, the european and north american powers had been bird of prey in Latin America. Congratulations Ana and Jose for your efforts to bring this to Canadians. The incident you are talking about is not an isolated incident, this happening all over Latin America.
To see more about what Canadian mining companies are doing in Latin America, their people and environment
Rating: +9




Rating: +5
Jaime Coreas
Way to go Ana. Pacific Rim has to stop mining in our country for the sake of Latin America, not just our country and stop those senseless killings. I personally knew Dora Alicia and her only sin was to fight for her community in Cabanas.
Rating: +3
It is so disgusting, the way we allow ourselves to ignore our government's lack of ethics. Our country is abusing civil society for the sake of private businesses on so many levels. They have removed so many protections over the last few years and have managed to divert or block attention to HUGE disgraces. There is so much crap going on now that people don't want to know about it; which is provided for by main-stream media, -making sure that placement of a story, if any at all, and ambiguous or deceptive wording smooths it all away nicely. Providing possible excuses, diverting attention, or suggesting someone else, surely not us must have done 'it'. It's so bad now that many are afraid to take a stand. Our parents in the 40s and later sacrificed SO MUCH to get us protected from THIS VERY THING. Now we are losing it all already.
What a sorry lot of spoiled children we've become. ANYTHING goes now, as long it's not 'ME 'that's affected this time. Just worshiping the all-mighty dollar, and in a way admiring the very dinks that grind us all into the dirt..
This should have been FRONT PAGE NEWS all along. Most people never heard a peep!
Rating: +4
ray vaughn
blood diamonds ...blood gold
Rating: -2
E Maestro
Thank you for this article. Most Canadians do not know that Canadian big mining corporations do their dirty business in countries like El Salvador . They also do this in the Philippines.
Placer Dome, Toronto Ventures, Inc and Crew Development are examples of Canadian big mining corporations that have plundered and destroyed our natural resources and the lands of the indigenous peoples, with the collusion of politicians and big landlords who look at profits instead of safeguarding our national patrimony.
Rating: 0
Justice for Cabañas activisits!
E Maestro, yes it is true these Canadian companies are in many developing countries:
GoldCorp in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Argentina as well as the Southwest U.S.
Skye Resources in Guatemala
Barrick Gold in New Guinea, Chile, and Africa
Placer Dome Inc. in the Phillipines

The list goes on.

The sad part about this is that most Canadians have NO CLUE that their CPP contributions and other funds and pensions are being directly invested into these corporations to do business.
These countries often have low environmental and social standards as well as poor legal and political frameworks from which to seek justice in cases such as the murders in El Salvador.
In Guatemala, Mayan indigenous peoples are being displaces from their ancestral lands to make way for mining projects. In Mexico as well, anit-mining activists are being murdered. In New Guinea, people are also being displaced.
Not to mention the amount of environmental destruction by these companies who often claim to do "green mining". There is no such thing as "green mining" IMO, esp. not if you are using cyanide.

I encourage you all to write to your MP's and PM Harper to show your support for Bill C-300. Write to the CPP board and ask questions about how your CPP contributions are being invested. And demand an investigation into Pacific Rim to find out if there is in fact a connection between these murders and the company. Write to Pacific Rim directly and demand that they drop their shameful lawsuit against El Salvador.

It's absolutely ludicrous what is happening and what's more infuriating is the lack of Canadian media attention being paid to these problems.

Thank you go the Georgia Straight for running this story and I hope more people come forward and speak up about the negative impacts these companies are having in other developing nations so that Canadians can open their eyes to the UGLY TRUTH about Canadian mining corporations abroad.

Down with this neo-colonialist BS!
Rating: -1
I agree with many of the comments posted here, mainly that mining activities can lead to polluted lakes and rivers,destruction of forests, and displacement of indigenous peoples. However, keep in mind people that the majority of these companies have come a long way and have an enhanced dedication to being socially responsible.

But most of all, keep in mind that we would be living in the Dark Ages without mining companies. There would be no cars, no bikes, no iPods, no computers.... without mineral resources. The very process of extracting ore and processing it to create pure metals is chemical-intensive. Yes some companies need to be a lot more socially-conscious... but as technologies become more advanced for treating effluent and byproducts from mining, the harm to our water systems will continue to improve.
Rating: +8
uncle p
Mining support, all the consumer products you have mentioned are not necesary for human survival. As a matter of fact they are keeping us in the DARK as they are tools used by system to prevent us from questioning the power dymanics generated by capital exploitation. Consumer products are the opium of the masses and our addiction to them make sus ignorant.

The arguments against mining in El Salvador are more related to the fact that in such a small, highly populated and environmentally damaged country mining threats public safety. This is an argument that Pacific Rim reps. choose to ignore.
Rating: +3
cha cha
Isn't there a way for Salvadorians to take advantage of the opportunity for jobs and commerce that mining brings, while respecting the environment.

What do the local people wan? What does the government say?

Rating: -6
oh oh
There was a public forum back in October at SFU Harbour center where a representative from the National Coalition Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador spoke about the situation w/ PacRim in El Salvador.

He stated that the jobs generated by PacRim's projects would only be temporary and the majority would go to the elites in the community and to foreigners w/ expertise (ie: mining engineers). Locals would receive low wages for cheap labour. People need to understand the social and political context in which these operations occurr where it is predominantly the business elite and oligarchy who support these projects and who ultimately most benefit from them, while the poor are left to deal w/ the negative consequences of environmental contamination, negative health effects, etc.
In addition, profits for El Salvador gained from the mining would only be about 2-3% from the millions PacRim has to gain. That's pennies for a country with high rate of poverty. Oxfam has stated mining in El Salvador would not generate significant development in the country. Local activists want to see alternative development strategies that would not harm the local environment.
He also stated that much of the community in Cabañas was not informed or consulted about PacRim's proposed projects. That is why local community activists have taken upon themselves to educate themselves about the pro's and con's so they can educate other community members. And now they are paying the ultimate price: their lives.

I receive updates from family members weekly about the resistance to PacRim and the calls for justice for the murders. They want the international community to come and see and hear for themselves the terror this community is facing as a result of PacRim's presence.

Reports from ES state that about 60% of the Salvadoran people do not want mining to happen in the country. They understand that it is just not sustainable in a country as small and as densley populated as ES esp. w/ the water shortages in the country. The mining would use up about 15% of El Salvador's land surface. The country itself is about 1/4 the size of Vancouver Island!
The exploratory projects by PacRim alone have dried up local wells and aquifiers. Water is rationed in ES and is already a contaminated resource in El Salvador. Water shortages and even conflicts amongst the people over access to it during the dry season are common.
El Salvador's gold fight goes international by the RealNews Nov. 2009:

Here is an update this week on President Funes' stance on PacRim mining and the murders:

At Copenhagen, developed countries criticized developing countries for not doing enough to curtail environmental destruction and climate change. Here we have an example of a developing nation saying no to an environmentally destructive mining project and yet our Canadian Pension Plans are helping fund these projects.
Can you say hypocrisy?
Rating: -5
carlos coreas
all those people that hurt and ruin others people ´s life will face Jesus when they die and will receive what they deserve.woe to you greedy persons for you destroy what was created by God to satisfy your hunger of money.surely i tell will get your pay.
Rating: +7
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