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Protesting Pacific Rim Mining Poisoning Rivers in El Salvador

On the eve of World Bank/CAFTA hearing June 1, 2010 in DC, protestors call attention to Pacific Rim’s suing El Salvador for not permitting mining gold that would poison half of their rivers with cyanide.

Pacific Rim Mining Corp sought to open a large gold mine in the basin of El Salvador’s largest river. The mine would use enormous amounts of water and tons of cyanide to process the ore. Public concerns about serious health, water and environmental issues arose after the first environmental study came out. Business press reports note that Pacific Rim halted its application for a final operating permit and ceased exploratory drilling in 2008.

Meanwhile, in a triumph of democracy after decades of civil war, Salvadoran public concern translated into bipartisan political action. Both the conservative and then left-leaning governments undertook a national review of mining policy.

But instead of continuing with the permitting process, Pacific Rim turned to CAFTA. It reincorporated a Cayman Islands subsidiary in Nevada, and used this new U.S. corporate entity to file a CAFTA case in December 2008. Pacific Rim is using CAFTA’s controversial “investor -state” dispute resolution mechanism, which gives corporations the right to directly sue sovereign governments over environmental and other public interest policies they feel could undermine anticipated future profits. As a result, a World Bank tribunal is now empowered to decide whether Pacific Rim’s expectation of profit trumps the right of the Salvadoran people to clean water, a sound environment and their democratic rights to determine what is in their national interest. video by Joe Friendly
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