Tuesday, February 07, 2006

More on gold mining

I have written a fair amount about gold mining activities in El Salvador in the past. (Just use the search tool at the top of this page and search the blog for "gold mining"). And I'm going to keep writing about it because I foresee conflict with foreign gold mining operations becoming a major tension point in El Salvador in the coming months and years.

On the one hand, we have gold mining companies continuing to show with their regular press releases that they have a great deal of excitement about the prospects of extracting mineral wealth from El Salvador. For example, take today's press releases by Au Martinique Silver Inc. (PDF) describing the progress of its exploration in the Potonico district in north central El Salvador, and Pacific Rim which told investors "The Company is currently conducting an intensive reconnaissance-style project generation initiative within El Salvador to capitalize on its unique geological knowledge and continue to build its portfolio of high-quality gold projects. The acquisition of the Zamora project is the latest in this effort."

On the other hand, you should consider this strong critique of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) which Pacific Rim provided to the Salvadoran government for its El Dorado project. It concludes:

The public EIA review process is clearly lacking in openness and transparency. Only one printed copy of the EIA is available for public review (at the offices of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, MARN) within all of El Salvador. The public must review and submit written comments on this 1400 page document within a period of 10 working days. No photocopies or photographs of any part of the document may be made at MARN. As such, the present process is driven largely by the mining industry and the regulatory agencies, without the substantive input from civil society.

Basic data within this EIA are poorly organized and summarized making the public review process even more difficult. Ideally, a well organized and complete EIA would facilitate public involvement.

At present, the EIA process ensures that all of the sampling and test information is provided by the mining companies or their paid representatives. In order to promote public confidence in the process, independent sources of information need to be developed and encouraged.

Many of the environmental impacts routinely encountered at similar gold mining sites are being neglected, which generates uncertainty for the public and the regulators. This uncertainty is dealt with in the U.S.A. and Canada through the use of financial assurance requirements. Financial assurance issues are not discussed in this EIA.

The realistic costs for water as a commodity are neglected, which biases cost-benefit analyses. As a result, the public often argues that the poor are being required to subsidize the rich.

This EIA would not be acceptable to regulatory agencies in most developed countries.

The thirst for gold profits and the inability, or unwillingness, of the Salvadoran government to insist on environmental protections, make a conflict between corporate mining interests and the campesinos they impact, almost inevitable.


Anonymous said...


since the project does not meet _your_ standards for Env Imp Study, let's kill it!

and let the people continue unemployed! heck, who needs a salary, anyway? Let them eat cake!


Tim said...

Actually, I'd like them to eat food raised in their fields and fish caught in their rivers and streams which have not been polluted by mining operations. The number of people who could be negatively impacted may exceed those who get a job. The point is that Pacific Rim and the government have not done an adequate study to assess the costs and benefits and whether the harms can be appropriately minimized.

Anonymous said...

If the information in the excerpted segment accurately reflects the nature of the EIS, then it doesn't meet my standards, it wouldn't meet the standards of any project undertaken in an American community, and I don't see how it could meet anybody else's standards!

Anonymous said...

Who will actually make money from a gold mine? I'm guessing that the foreign company will make pretty good money. Some shareholders will make a little money, and some white collar workers will have a good salary. But what about Salvadorans? They will be paid almost nothing, like they do it in Brasil. AND as a bonus, their land and water is poisoned.

If they can figure out a way to do it right, then this would be great.

Anonymous said...

So according to anonymous1, it is okay to strip away the lands of the campesinos, have them unemployed, travel to the cities and contribute to the further impoverishment of the country.

By the way, what jobs do the mining companies offer that in the long run couldn't be substituted by machinery and specialist? Perhaps the job of bearers, coupled with crappy wages... So that is crappy wages+ water+polution+deforestation+cheap menial labor explotation+any other health hazards that "miners" suffer when working in bad conditions< farmers keeping their land and practicing, at the very least, subsistence farming.