Central American Countries Protest Canadian Government's Role in Mining

Written by Sebastián Darío
for Upside Down World

San Salvador -- Busloads of people surrounded the Salvador del Mundo monument in front of the Canadian Embassy in San Salvador today to protest the Canadian Government's role Central American mining, and specifically in the 29 mining projects currently active in El Salvador. The event was the culmination of the Central American Alliance against Metallic Mining conference held last weekend in Cabañas, El Salvador, where the Canadian Pacific Rim company is currently operating.

The majority of the more than one thousand people participating in today's protest traveled from the communities of the Association of Communities for the Development of Chalatenango (CCR), where the companies Tribune Resources and Intrepid Resources are currently operating under four different mining exploration licenses. According to the National Table on Mining, more than ten percent of the northern portion of El Salvador is under license to mining companies, the majority with headquarters in Canada.

Also present in the activity where participants in last weekend's conference on mining, including representatives from Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, as well as from the Salvadoran Departments of Cabañas, San Vicente and San Salvador. During the demonstration, the Central American Alliance against Metallic Mining presented a press release denouncing mining activities to officials of the Canadian Embassy, calling for an end to the "plundering of the resources of our subsoil... by transnational mining companies, with the approval, protection, and participation of government functionaries and financed by the World Bank."

Protesters demanded accountability and intervention from the Canadian Embassy in the actions of Canadian mining companies, declaring "as organized people we have been using all the mechanisms of struggle we can, political, social, legal and including passive resistance. As an answer from the institutions of the State we have been de-legitimatized, we have been branded criminals, and have suffered brutal repression." The people and communities in mining region have even been accused of carrying out terrorist activities for defending their most basic rights.

The protesters gathered around the statues of Salvador del Mundo and Archbishop Romero which mark the beginning of the Paseo Escalón, the boulevard which cuts through one of San Salvador's most exclusive neighbourhoods and the location of the Canadian Embassy. Carrying signs saying "No to mining, yes to life" the masses blocked the boulevard and applauded local musicians and folk dancers who entertained the crowds and passers-by.

David Pereira of the Association for Social and Economic Development of Cabañas warned that mining activity in the northern part of the country would cause contamination of the Lempa, Sumpul, Torola and Goascorán rivers, amongst others, all important water resources for the country's more than 6 million inhabitants.

The National Table on Mining cites evidence that to extract one ounce of gold from a mine, miners must move twenty tons of rock and earth and then process these raw materials with toxic substances to separate the trace amounts of gold from the enormous amounts of rock waste.