Sean Donohue, in an article on the NarcoNews web site titled "Resisting the New Conquistadors" describes the organizing efforts of small communities in Chalatenango department against the arrival of Canadian gold mining companies. Here is an excerpt:
Earlier this year, the Salvadoran government granted two Canadian companies, Au Martinique Silver and Intrepid Minerals, licenses for gold exploration in the department of Chalatenango, near the Honduran border. Au Martinique's website promises investors that "El Salvador has the lowest risk profile for investment in all of Central America." But what they haven't taken into account is the region's strong history of community organizing, and the lengths its people are willing to go to defend their land and their livelihood.
According to Oxfam America, "Gold mining is one of the most destructive activities in the world. The production of one gold ring generates 20 tons of waste." Cyanide, used to separate gold from ore, can be deadly in small doses. It leaches into groundwater and soil where it can persist for years.
Most people in Chalatenango are subsistence farmers, growing what they can in poor soil, and supplementing their meager earnings with money sent by relatives living and working in the U.S. Debt has already driven many families off the land, and with cheap imports from subsidized farms in the U.S. driving crop prices down, many more will have to leave the land in the years to come. Water and soil contamination from gold mining could deal the final blow to communities like Carasque that are already struggling to survive.
Community leaders don't believe the mining companies' promises of jobs and prosperity. Esperanza Ortega, a legendary organizer from the town of Arcatao, says:They tell us they are going to bring employment to our community, but based on the investigation we've done on the experiences of other communities around, they say that, they give employment to a few people for awhile, and then when they decide it's time to bring machinery in, it's just the specialists, the people that can run the machinery, and they kick all the other workers out.
Recently El Faro carried a similar story of how the community of San Jose Las Flores in Chalatenango has organized to keep out gold mining interests. As the price fo gold soars on world markets, the potential for gold mining in El Salvador is likely to be a flash point for protests in the months to come.