World Bank Tribunal Set to Release Decision on Pacific Rim/Oceana Gold Versus El Salvador Mining Case

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Pacific Rim/Oceana Gold used unjust trade and investment laws to sue the Salvadoran government in 2009; Salvadoran taxpayers have paid over $13 million in legal fees in order to defend their right to protect water resources and the environment. The World Bank tribunal is set to release its decision mid-October.

Over the past few years, CISPES has joined environmental, human rights, trade justice, labor and faith organizations across the US and Canada to accompany the Salvadoran social movement in their courageous fight to stop the Pacific Rim mining corporation (now Oceana Gold) from opening a gold mine in Cabañas, El Salvador, including their battle against a $300 million lawsuit at the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

After seven long years, and over $13 million in legal fees that Salvadoran taxpayers have been forced to pay to defend their right to protect water resources and the environment, the World Bank tribunal is set to release its decision mid-October.

Pacific Rim/Oceana Gold used unjust investment laws to sue the Salvadoran government in 2009 for not approving its application for a mining permit; these pro-corporate policies are a core component of many trade agreements, including the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Following the lawsuit, four community organizers who were active in the struggle against mining were murdered: Marcelo Romero, Dora Alicia Recinos Sorto, Ramiro Rivera, and Juan Francisco Durán Ayala. Several others have survived threats to their lives.

After months of silence from the ICSID regarding the status of its decision, in early August, Luis Parada, the lawyer representing El Salvador in the case, told the Salvadoran press that the tribunal had made its final ruling and it would soon be released.

However, the mining company subsequently requested an extension in order to try to negotiate with the government. According to Parada, the company “had made a proposal to the Salvadoran government to initiate private and confidential conversations,” presumably to pressure the government to grant the mining proposal before the tribunal’s decision went public. However, the Salvadoran government rejected their proposal, instead calling on the tribunal to issue its ruling as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, representatives of El Salvador’s National Roundtable against Metallic Mining, which includes directly affected community groups and the nation’s leading environmental, land and water rights organization, had their own meeting with President Sánchez Cerén. During that meeting, the president reaffirmed his commitment to not allow mining in the country during his term.

He also agreed to send the Roundtable’s proposal for an executive order to suspend metallic mining in El Salvador to his legal advisors for review; right-wing parties have been blocking a similar bill in the Legislature since 2010.

Despite the targeted murders, the threats, and the offers of "community benefits", the affected communities, joined by the environmental movement and the FMLN, have maintained their dedication to prevent the ravages of metallic mining from destroying El Salvador and thus far, they have succeeded.

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