This week El Salvador's Ministers of the Environment and of the Economy announced that they have sent a draft law to the National Assembly which would suspend all metallic mining activity in the country. The law is intended to suspend all such activity until El Salvador has the necessary structures in place to control the environmental and social impacts of mining. This suspension will apply to existing exploration and exploitation permits as well as putting a hold on any new applications. A Monitoring Committee would be created to determine when conditions have changed such that mining activity might resume.
This draft law is the outcome of the Strategic Environmental Evaluation prepared by the Spanish consulting firm, the Tau Group. I provided an overview of that report in this blog in March which you can read here, and that entire report is available at this link.
The National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining condemned the draft law as not going far enough. The Roundtable calls for a permanent mining ban and not just the suspension called for in the draft. Here is an excerpt from the statement of the Roundtable:
The suspension of metallic mining exploration and exploitation projects proposed by the Ministries of the Economy and Environment, does not eliminate the threat metallic mining poses to the country, it only postpones it. The bill, in its very nature, is temporary, superficial and does not contain any scientific basis. It shows that the government is not interested in banning metallic mining, even when we have scientifically demonstrated with technical arguments that metal extraction from Salvadoran soil is irrational because it would contaminate and destroy the environment, as well as break down the social fabric in communities, as well as violate the fundamental rights of the population.
We reiterate that the grave environmental degradation our country suffers is incompatible with such a predatory industry, like metallic mining. The grave contamination that has affected 98% of our rivers, the chronic scarcity of potable water that population faces, as well as the fact that El Salvador is one of the most deforested and densely populated countries in Latin America and one of the most vulnerable countries in the world, where 98% of the population lives in areas that prone to natural disasters, should all be reason enough to close the doors on mining companies in El Salvador.
As the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining we consider the proposed Law to Suspend Mining presented by the government as a demagogic and false solution to the threats posed by vicious transnational companies from the extractive industry. If Funes government really cares about guaranteeing sustainability and improving the quality of life for the population, instead of looking for a superficial solution that has been calculated to save the administration itself, they should promote a ban on metallic mining through a new Mining Law that explicitly reflects the profound socio-environmental crisis we are suffering and which is currently rapidly deeping.