Concerned that US tax dollars could go to support gold mining activities in El Salvador with potentially devastating environmental consequences, a letter is being circulated in Congress to urge that no such event takes place. Several groups are supporting the following drive.
Ensure that US funds are not used to support gold mining in rural El Salvador
Contact your congressperson and urge them to sign Rep. Michaud's Dear Colleague letter
Communities in rural El Salvador are being threatened by gold mining companies which have targeted them against their will for mining activity. These communities are gravely and justifiably concerned that mining activities —large-scale open-pit excavations using a cyanide extraction process—will damage their reforested land, contaminate their water supplies, and jeopardize their health.
Late in 2006, the US government's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) awarded $461 million to El Salvador, including $233 million to build a "northern highway" promoted as infrastructure to help peasant farmers bring their products to market. The MCC's stated goals include the reduction of poverty, promotion of democratic, responsive institutions, and environmental preservation. El Salvador's application for these funds likewise emphasized assistance for micro, small and medium sized producers to expand their markets, while preserving the environment."
However, the mining projects' potentially devastating effects, which include water shortages, water pollution, de-forestation and health risks, violate these MCC goals. Moreover, the road itself, which bypasses many rural communities and runs directly through the proposed mining belt, will be more useful for exporting mineral wealth out of the country, and for transporting goods from the US to Central and South America, than for supporting sustainable local development. Finally, in response to the local communities asserting their democratic rights as citizens and communities, popular opposition has been met by the deployment of the Salvadoran military in the area.
The letter, to be signed by members of the US House of Representatives, urges Salvadoran legislators to support a mining reform bill before them that would ban metallic open-pit precious metal mining excavation in El Salvador. As outlined above and in the attached letter, such projects are incompatible both with the purpose of the Millennium Challenge Account and with the environmental guarantees the Government of El Salvador proposed in its application for MCA funds.
We ask you to email and call your congressperson (find their contact information at www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW.shtml)and urge them to sign on to the Dear Colleague letter. The deadline for them to sign on is Friday, February 23.
The letter has originated in Maine Representative Mike Michaud's office. To sign on, your representative should contact Kim Thompson in Rep. Mike Michaud's office by phone (202-225-6306) or email Kim.Thompson@mail.house.gov.
WHEN YOU CALL:
1. Introduce yourself and tell your congressperson whom you represent (a solidarity organization, concerned citizens, your church or synagogue, etc).
2. Ask them to sign onto Rep. Michaud's Dear Colleague letter about Gold Mining in El Salvador -- because you don't want U.S. funds to support environmental damage or projects that destroy rural communities.
3. Offer to send them the Dear Colleague Letter, and cover letter.
4. Tell them how to contact Rep. Michaud's office, and that the signing deadline is Feb. 23.
With questions, or for more information, contact the National Center for US-El Salvador Sister Cities: (585) 360-1985 or firstname.lastname@example.org.