Oxfam America issued a report today titled Metals, mining, and sustainable development in Central America. From Oxfam's press release announcing the publication of the report:
[H]igh gold and minerals prices in recent years have renewed mining companies' interest in Central American metals. The Oxfam report pays special attention to Pacific Rim Mining Corporation's El Dorado Mine in El Salvador, Goldcorp Inc.'s Marlin Mine in Guatemala, and Goldcorp's San Martin Mine in Honduras.
While mining companies and the governments that support new mining proposals have emphasized the benefits of mining, organized sectors of civil society are more concerned with the long-term costs. And there is a growing awareness of the decision-making role of communities near these projects.
"Mining companies must respect local communities' right to free, prior, and informed consent," said Offenheiser. "If they do not, a mining' project's costs will likely outweigh its benefits for local people."
While mining may create great net value, most of that value flows out of the country to the foreign owners of the mining company. Minerals commodity markets are highly volatile, modern open-air pit mining creates relatively few jobs, and the life cycles of open-pit mines are short, offering a small window of opportunity for integration with local economies.
The report is sure to draw howls of criticism from supporters of Pacific Rim in El Salvador. Despite the frequent mention of Pacific Rim in the report, there is actually little concrete analysis of the arguments made by Pacific Rim in support of its bid to begin exploiting its El Dorado mine property. The report comes shortly before the date when Pacific Rim may commence an international arbitration under DR-CAFTA against El Salvador for the refusal to issue a mining permit, and days after the new archbishop of San Salvador reiterated the Roman Catholic bishops' stance against gold mining in the country.