Canadian Mining Corporations in Latin America: Solidarity Rally

Photo by Martin St-Amant

Trade agreements are a weapon against communities! Community consent over corporate bullying! La lucha sigue; the struggle continues!

In 2008, after years of violence, conflict, environmental degradation, and water pollution at the hands of mining companies, then-president of El Salvador Antonio Saca stopped issuing new mining permits. This decision has widespread support in El Salvador; a recent poll of the University of Central America (UCA) indicates that that 79.5 per cent of Salvadorans are against any gold mining.

In 2009, after pleading with El Salvador to reconsider, OceanaGold (then called Pacific Rim) sued the whole country through an “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) case at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the World Bank Group’s arbitration venue. The charge? “Loss of potential profits.” These types of suits are increasingly possible under free trade agreements, including ones currently being negotiated by our government (for example: the TPP and CETA).

If OceanaGold wins, the Salvadoran people will be required to pay $250-million (US), a morally reprehensible demand. Already, in the seven years that this arbitration has gone on, $12-million (US) in legal costs have been incurred, which is enough to pay for over two years of adult literacy classes in El Salvador.

Civil society groups worldwide that support Salvadoran communities and organizations working on mining and environmental issues cheered today’s decision by the ICSID tribunal that Pacific Rim/OceanaGold’s $250-million lawsuit against El Salvador is without merit.

The Verdict Is In!

In a ruling released October 14th, the investment tribunal rejected the company’s claims and ordered it to pay $8-million in legal fees and costs to the government of El Salvador.

“At a time of water scarcity, it is unconscionable for the global trade and investment regime to deny governments of water-stressed countries like El Salvador the policy space to protect local watersheds and ensure the realization of the human right to water,” says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

“Let us be clear: El Salvador has not ‘won’ anything in this arbitration. El Salvador had to pay more than $12-million just to defend itself. These legal costs are enough to pay for over 2 years of adult literacy classes for 140,000 people. At a minimum, OceanaGold should reimburse El Salvador for the costs of this suit, which never should have taken place. And it should also be responsible for the social and environmental damage left in its wake,” says Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada.

Organized by Mining Injustice Solidarity Network. The rally was held across the street from Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland’s office, Toronto.

This article originally appeared on SocialistProject.ca.