New Report Defines "Strategic Campaign Targeting Mining Opponents" in Cabañas, El Salvador

For Immediate Release

February 22, 2010—A new report released today by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Commission on Environmental, Economic, and Social Policy (CEESP) concludes that the region of Cabañas, El Salvador is facing "a strategic campaign of domestic terrorism targeting mining opponents." The report El Salvador: Gold, Guns, and Choice states that police investigation into the recent rash of attacks, murders, and threats in Cabañas has been ineffective, and the lack of security in the region is unacceptable. The report further indicates that Pacific Rim Mining Corporation shares responsibility for the situation in having failed to conduct business consistent with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, specifically those guidelines regarding transparency and bribery of foreign officials.

Pacific Rim Mining Corporation has come under fire in El Salvador and internationally since a wave of violence, abductions, assassinations, and death threats escalated against community leaders, mine opponents, and local journalists last summer. The international media has directly or indirectly linked these acts to Pacific Rim's presence in the region. Local residents insist that Pacific Rim be included in as-yet unfinished police investigations for each of the crimes.

The new report is based on meetings in January with Cabañas residents, Salvadoran attorneys, representatives from several ministries of the Salvadoran Executive and the Legislative Assembly, and top officials at the United States Embassy in San Salvador. “The current security situation for mine opponents in Cabañas is unacceptable. The report provides an overview of the situation, and makes several recommendations for resolving the conflict,” said the report's author, Prof. Rick Steiner. “A full investigation by Salvadoran authorities into these crimes is imperative, and the international community awaits its outcome.”

“From a general perspective, it is entirely irresponsible for Pacific Rim to operate in flagrant disregard for the OECD guidelines, and without intervention or reprimand by the U.S. or Canadian governments for these reported violations," continued Steiner.

The report also comments on the impacts gold mining would have in Cabañas, specifically on shortcomings in Pacific Rim's Environmental Impact Assessment for the El Dorado project, and on the classification of the El Dorado tailings dam as "high risk".

This report is the latest of several independent investigations that include criticism of Pacific Rim's comportment in El Salvador. A 2005 report by U.S. hydrologist Robert Moran reviewed Pacific Rim's Environmental Impact Assessment for the El Dorado project and determined that it "would not be acceptable to regulatory agencies in most developed countries."

“It’s been crucial to have independent reviews of Pacific Rim’s activities in El Salvador,” said Emily Carpenter, director of U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities. “We see just how much is missing from the company’s public disclosure. The “Gold, Guns, and Choice” report should be taken seriously by government officials and industry leaders.”

Following the Salvadoran government declining to grant the company mining exploitation permits for the El Dorado project, Pacific Rim filed a lawsuit under the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), suing the government of El Salvador for the amount of their investment in the country as well as lost future profits, seeking “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Contact: Professor Rick Steiner (Alaska), member IUCN/CEESP: (907) 360-4503; richard.g.steiner(at)gmail.com