Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Gold mining in El Salvador

A new gold mine in eastern El Salvador will lead to serious environmental degradation according to the the Association for Social and Economic Development (ADES), a Salvadoran nongovernmental organization. As reported in Diario CoLatino, ADES has concluded that the waste from the mining operation will pollute local water supplies and adversely impact local agriculture and fisheries.

The mine is operated by a Canadian company, Pacific Rim. The El Dorado mine is the first commercial-scale gold mine in El Salvador.

According to ADES, the numbers speak for themselves: of a projected annual profit of $30 million for North American shareholders, 1% royalties to the San Isidro county government amount to $300,000 and 148 jobs for locals for eight years. Meanwhile, ten thousand people, mostly farmers, are left with questionable water resources and the risk of future chemical leakage and health afflictions.

The Sierra Club has written about the El Dorado mine:

In Cabañas, Pacific Rim's plans to fund schooling and other community projects fits squarely into the development principles promoted by the World Bank: foreign investment and private sector incentives for education and other services. During the past decade, El Salvador has been the model student of the development strategies of the World Bank and the IMF, deregulating industries and courting foreign investors through emphasizing the minimal royalties that local communities such as San Isidro receive. For proponents of the mine, El Dorado would bring money to one of the most impoverished areas of El Salvador and could even stem the flow of young people migrating to the US.

Yet when Mr. Earnest explains on the local radio that Pacific Rim's primary purpose, "like any other company, is to earn profits for our shareholders," many residents aren't ready to hand over such influence on San Isidro's local services and development plans. "The government is corrupt here, and we don't receive anything, but we don't want the gringos involved," says Alejandro, a San Isidro resident who attended the workshop. Others are concerned that the company-sponsored training programs displace teaching resources from the local schools and only target potential mine employees.

My take -- if El Salvador has gold or other mineral resources, such resources should be exploited for the benefit of the country. The best way to achieve this may be by granting concessions to foreign companies like Pacific Rim. The devil is in the details, though. How does a small country with an abysmal record of environmental protection, oversee a complex mining operation? How is corruption avoided in the granting of mining concessions? And if El Salvador wants to change the rules that Pacific Rim operates under, it will face the threat of litigation in the new arbitration forum created by CAFTA.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

The last thing the country needs is more threats to the already endangered environment. Mining should've been banned.

Anonymous said...

When the labor force in local impact is clearly not many jobs and the government only is going to receive $300,000.00 as according to this report which seems low at best for the rape of the land. Is the mining process that is proposed to be using mercury? A very hazardous chemical and process whereever it is used. There are other methods of extraction and recovery may take longer but far more environmentally friendly and leaves the water usable for the farmers.

Karama said...

Folks who still like gold may want to consider recycled gold jewelry.

Salmin said...

Lets see now, anonymous said the last thing the country needs is more threats to an already endangered environment. Did you ever stop to consider how El Salvador's environment got to be where it is today?? Poverty and ignorance cut down all the trees, polluted the rivers and throws garbage by the ton throughout the countryside. Modern mining practices are very environmentally very sound, modern poverty and ignorance are not!!!

Is the mining process going to use mercury??? Are you kidding me?? You should have at least some rudimentary working knowledge of modern mining practices. Research for a moment the impact of mining in place wheere ming occurs, say Chile or Nevada, USA. Chile did not get to be the better of th Latin countries through the preservation of poverty. It is mining that propelled the country forward. Now they can afford to be environmentally conscious. El Salvador cannot. Mining offers a way to rstore some of what povery has taken away. Rape the land?? Get a clue!! It's an underground mine!! Do you know anything about mining?? What aree your altrnatives to mining (and please...not tourism)!!

Good luck guys...

The teacher said...

Tim, It seems that you and a lot of people are informed about exploration, mining in general, the state of existing land use and pollution in El Salvador, and what an income means to a lot of people in the country. An income that is often above the basic salary; often with health cover, insurance, training and skills and education. Your comment about who gets the money? That is up to the government, the one elected by the people. Some third world governments insist on part ownership of the mining operations - this way they get royalties, as well as a slice of the profits, as well as get a say in how the company does things. Those same governments can also nominate so much to be spent on social infrastructure during the life of the mining operation - schools, hospitals, water dams, water treatment facilities, airports, port authorities for boats etc. For every $1 spent directly in a community (wages etc), another 2 gets generated from the roll on effect from having a stimulated economy. I get the impression that you sit back in a first world country, in an air-conditioned house/unit, debating where to go for a beer with friends, what you have to do at work, where to go on holidays, etc all whilst you soap box on a computer about the evils of mining in the world. You have money; you use things everyday made from natural resources (plastics, clothes, cars, computers, metal products, electricity); you have good drinking water and health. Yet you wish to deny this basic right to other people, simply because it is what you think it is what they want, and you know what is best for them? I think you should come down and visit. I think you should meet people with open eyes, and I think you should experience first hand the benefits and problems that this country faces every day from all industries and walks of life, and not just metals mining.

Tizoc said...

I've just returned from a 5 week stay in the"oriente" of El Salvador where you can't go for 30 min on the radio without hearing the benefits of "green mining". There is no statement as to who is running these ads. This not the first time mining was done here, it was stopped during the civil war. The east of El Salvador get's the least attention from the central government, now that elections are near and the FMLN has a candiate that has a chance the goverment is making all sorts of efforts to pull back disenchanted voters. This push may or may not be good for the local economy, but what is for certain is that many government members and power brokers will make a killing. While the locals get "green mining"

Anonymous said...

Tizoc,

Consider this: at the end of the day the politicians and power brokers will get what they get and without green mining what will the locals get?...nothing!!

What alternatives do you have? And what's so wrong about a green mining movement that gives the people jobs, a better life, better infrastructure and hope?

Anonymous said...

i like pupusas. and gold is pretty too. tourism doesn't seem to fly too well here, and tigo and claro seem to have control over the populace.
in a place where the greatest natural resources are the sun's heat and the people that are beaten by it, any kind of spark is a good thing...even if it is ugly. out of chaos comes order. but out of nothing only comes nothing.

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