MAC: Mines and Communities

El Salvador: International organisations urge World Bank to dismiss Pacific Rim lawsuit

Published by MAC on 2011-12-27
Source: Inter Press Service (IPS)

Country's main water source is in jeopardy

A raft of international workers', human rights', faith and environmental organisations have petitioned the World Bank to dismiss a case brought against the government of El Salvador by the Pacific Rim mining company.

Although based in Canada, the company set up a subsidiary in Nevada in order to benefit from a free trade agreement between the United States and Central American states.

Invoking the agreement, Pacific Rim is suing El Salvador for over US$70 million at the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (CSID), claiming the government has unlawfully refused to permit a proposed gold mine.

The petitioners counter-claim that, by using cyanide to leach the gold ore, the purity of El Salvador's main water source would be jeopardised.

They say that: "Pacific Rim is using ICSID and the investor-state rules in a free trade agreement to subvert a democratic nationwide debate over mining and sustainability in El Salvador.

"These matters should not be decided by an ICSID arbitration tribunal. In the course of Pacific Rim's intervention in the political affairs of El Salvador, four anti-mining activists have been murdered in the project area."

Previous article on MAC: Court Dismisses U.S. Miner's Claims Against El Salvador

Protestors Condemn Mining Corporation Suing El Salvador

By Barbara Doherty

Inter Press Service (IPS)

15 December 2011

WASHINGTON - Protestors rallied in front of World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C. today hoping to persuade a tribunal housed there to dismiss a case brought by Pacific Rim Mining Corporation against the government of El Salvador.

Rally protesting Pacific Rim in Washington
AFL-CIO Director of International Affairs Cathy Feingold
speaks at a rally protesting Pacific Rim on Dec. 15.
Credit:Barbara Doherty/ IPS

Pacific Rim is suing El Salvador for more than 77 million dollars over the government's refusal to approve a permit for a cyanide-leach gold mining project along the Lempa River, which is the main water source for a majority of the nation's population.

"The case before the World Bank tribunal is a travesty," said Cecil W. Roberts, president of United Mine Workers of America. "A ruling in favour of the Pacific Rim gold mining company would represent a threat to workers' rights and the environment."

When initial explorations begun by Pacific Rim in 2002 turned up a promising vein of ore, the pro-business Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) government encouraged it to apply for a mining license.

But a grassroots movement of farmers and activists argued that such a project posed serious environmental and public health threats, setting off a major national debate. It is a discussion that should be left to that nation and its people, said the project's critics.

Pacific Rim, which has long insisted that it would use the most up-to-date environmental technology and methods to ensure the integrity and health of the river, brought its suit under an "investor-state" provision of the 2005 Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA).

That provision allows corporations to sue governments over actions that allegedly reduce the value of their investments. The provision and others like it were first crafted for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and are now included in dozens of U.S. trade and investment treaties.

The Bank-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) grew from these provisions and is the tribunal that is deciding the Pacific Rim case.

"This tribunal is illegitimate and it shouldn't exist," said John Cavanagh, director of the Institute for Policy Studies and a rally organizer. "It's an attack on democracy."

The World Bank protestors, numbering about 100 and accompanied by an 18-foot inflatable "fat cat", are supporters of 243 labour, environmental, faith and civil-society organizations representing millions of members. The group delivered an open letter to World Bank officials and ICSID members.

DR-CAFTA is an agreement strictly between the U.S. and Central American countries. Because Pacific Rim is based in Canada, which is not party to DR-CAFTA, it created a U.S. subsidiary in Nevada in 2009 to press its case before the tribunal, after it could not persuade the Salvadoran government to back the mining plan.

In that same year, the ARENA lost the presidency for the first time in 25 years to the centre-left Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), the former guerrilla organisation with close ties to the grassroots groups that have led the anti-mining campaign.

"Pacific Rim is using ICSID and the investor-state rules in a free-trade agreement to subvert a democratic nationwide debate over mining and sustainability in El Salvador," states the open letter. "These matters should not be decided by an ICSID arbitration tribunal."

Friends of the Earth-U.S. President Erich Pica denounced efforts by Pacific Rim and others who seek "super-national" rights. "The U.S. would never allow a company the ability to take a state or our federal government to a court at the World Bank" over such issues, Pica said.

Patricia Keefer, deputy director of international affairs for the American Federation of Teachers, added, "Our teachers and our organisation feel that it's the (Salvadoran) people who should be making the decisions about the environment, not having such dictates thrust on them by the World Bank."

Cavanagh told the protestors, "There's a set of people from the 'one percent' who don't think we should be here. But we're here to stand up for the democratic rights of people everywhere in the face of ever-expanding corporate rule."

Cavanagh and others decried the dire situation in El Salvador, which ended a bloody civil war only 20 years ago, for those who are leading a campaign against the mine.

Since 2009, four anti-mining activists have been murdered in the project area, the last one a student who was distributing flyers when he disappeared.

The Office of Public Witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA) added its own statement to the broader open letter. Calling the murders "an intolerable outcome," the church said, "We measure the impact of globalization by how it affects people and the creation."

"These mines will not create jobs, but will only bring more catastrophe to such a small country," Yanira Merino, immigration coordinator and assistant to the general president of the Labourers International Union of North America, told the rally.

"We do support trade, but it has to be fair trade: a trade that respects the workers and the civil society's voice."

According to Oxfam America, El Salvador is the second-most deforested country in the Americas after Haiti. Nearly all of its surface water is contaminated by industrial and agricultural pollutants.

Also participating in the rally were representatives of the AFL-CIO, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Farm Labour Organizing Committee, the Communications Workers of America, the Steelworkers, the International Longshoremen's Association and CISPES (the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador.)

Open Letter to World Bank Officials on Pacific Rim-El Salvador Case

12 December 2011

By Manuel Perez-Rocha

Pacific Rim is suing El Salvador for up to hundreds of millions of dollars under the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement for not approving a mining license. Since Canada isn't part of this agreement, Pacific Rim opened a subsidiary in Reno, Nevada.

Robert Zoellick, President, World Bank
Meg Kinnear, Secretary-General, ICSID
V.V. Veeder, Tribunal president
Brigitte Stern, Tribunal member
Guido Santiago Tawil, Tribunal member

From: Civil society organizations

The signers of this petition represent 244 international civil society organizations representing hundreds of millions of people.

We are writing out of solidarity with the communities of El Salvador that have been working through the democratic process to prevent a proposed cyanide-leach gold mining project, over well-founded fears that it threatens to poison the local community's environment as well as the country's most important river and source of water.

Rather than complying with the environmental permitting process of El Salvador, Pacific Rim launched an attack under the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

They are demanding compensation from the government of El Salvador that could rise to hundreds of millions of dollars. In an abuse of process designed to attract jurisdiction under DR-CAFTA, Pacific Rim moved its subsidiary from the Cayman Islands to Nevada in the United States. The case will be decided by a tribunal at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), associated with the World Bank.

Pacific Rim is using ICSID and the investor-state rules in a free trade agreement to subvert a democratic nationwide debate over mining and sustainability in El Salvador. These matters should not be decided by an ICSID arbitration tribunal. In the course of Pacific Rim's intervention in the political affairs of El Salvador, four anti-mining activists have been murdered in the project area.

We stand with these communities and the government of El Salvador in their demand that their domestic governance processes and national sovereignty be respected, and thus that this case be dismissed. We stand on the side of democracy.


International networks:

International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
Amigos de la Tierra América Latina y el Caribe (ATALC)
Convergencia de Movimientos de los Pueblos de las Américas
International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM)
International Forum on Globalization
Jubileo Sur / Americas
Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo Extractivo Minero (M4)
People's Health Movement
People's Health Movement in Europe

United States:

Alliance for Global Justice
American Federation of Teachers
American Jewish World Service
Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM)
Brazilian Inmigrant Center
Brooklyn for Peace
Campaign for Labor Rights
Casa El Salvador
CEIG Boulder-Communities Engaged in Global Justice
Center for International and Environmental Law
Chicago Religous Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)
Citizens Trade Campaign
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)
Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Community Service Organization (CSO)
Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice and Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility of United Church of Christ
Denver Justice & Peace Committee
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, St. Olaf College
Doctors for Global Health, USA
Due Process of Law Foundation - USA
Earth Economics
Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC)
Food and Water Watch
Food First
Friends of the Earth
Gender Action
Global Community Rights Framework Initiative
Global Exchange
Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Global Justice for Animals and the Environment
Global-Local Links Project
Grassroots Global Justice
Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
Holy Cross International Justice Office
Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF)
International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)
International Longshoremen's Association
Jobs with Justice Massachusetts
Jubilee Oregon
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State
LASC Milwaukee
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA).
Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice
Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Maryland Presbyterian Church
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
Midwest Coalition against Lethal Mining
Milwaukee Fair Trade Coalition
Mingas NY
New Rules for Global Finance Coalition
New York Whale and Dolphin Action League
Nicaragua Network
Occupy Wall Street Trade Justice Working Group
Office of the Americas
Oregon Fair Trade Campaign
Oregon New Sanctuary Movement
Power in Community Alliances (PICA)
Public Citizen
Rights Action
Salvadoran American National Association (SANA)
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
SHARE Foundation - El Salvador
Sierra Club
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas--Institute Justice Team
SOAW Boulder-School of the Americas Watch
Southern California Immigration Coalition (SCIC),
Texas Trade Fair Coalition
TradeJustice New York Metro
TransAfrica Forum
United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)
United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society
United Mine Workers of America (UMWA)
United Steelworkers
United Steelworkers District 7
US Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP)
Voices on the Border
Washington Ethical Society Global Connections
Washington Fair Trade Coalition
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Wetlands Activism Collective
Witness for Peace
Working Families Win

El Salvador and US-El Salvador Binational Groups:

Arlington - Teocinte Sister City Project
Asociación de Comunidades para el Desarrollo de Chalatenango (CCR)
Asociación de Desarrollo Económico y Social, Santa Marta (ADES)
Asociación para el Desarrollo de El Salvador (CRIPDES)
Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network
Austin - Guajoyo Sister City Project
Bangor - Carasque Sister City Project
Binghamton-El Charcon Sister City Project
Capitulo Salvadoreño de la Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (CPIDHDD),
Centro de Estudios y Apoyo Laboral, CEAL
Centro de Investigación sobre Inversión y Comercio (CEICOM)
Chicago - Cinquera Sister Cities
Comité Internacional contra la Explotación Minera
El Salvador Sistering Committee
Focus Central America, Wichita, KS
Friends of Chilama
Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicación de Derechos (FESPAD)
Madison Arcatao Sister City Project
Mesa Nacional frente a la Minería Metálica en El Salvador
Mesa Permanente por la Justicia Laboral (FESPAD)
Movimiento Nacional en Defensa de la Tierra (MOVITIERRA)
Movimiento Unificado Francisco Sánchez 1932 (MUFRAS 32)
Oberlin in Solidarity with El Salvador (OSES)
Red de Acción Ciudadana frente al Libre Comercio frente al Libre Comercio e Inversión Sinti Techan
UNES, Unidad Ecologica Salvadoreña
Watertown-El Salvador Sister City Group


Breaking the Silence Solidarity Network
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Coalition québécoise sur les impacts socio-environnementaux des transnationales en Amérique Latine (Coalition QUISETAL)
Committee to Support Social Development in El Salvador
Common Frontiers
Conseilleres en Gestion Praxis
Council of Canadians
International Human Rights Clinic of the University of Quebec at Montreal
MiningWatch Canada
Partners in Mission Unit, The United Church of Canada
Peace and Justice Committee, Grace Mennonite Church
Polaris Institute
Rights Action
Salvadorian Canadian Association of Ottawa and National Capital Region (ASCORCAN)
Social Justice Committee of Montreal

Other Countries (alphabetical, by country):

DIÁLOGO 2000, Argentina
Foro Ciudadano de Participación por la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos (FOCO), Argentina
Public Health Association of Australia, Australia
Informationsgruppe Lateinamerika - IGLA, Austria
11.11.11, Belgium
Broderlijk Delen, Belgium
Democracy Center, Bolivia
Fundacion Solón, Bolivia
Amigos de la Tierra, Brazil
Associação de Favelas de São Jose dos Campos - SP - Brasil, Brazil
Ecosistemas, Chile
Consejo de Defensa de la Patagonia, Chile
Asociación Campesina de Desarrollo Sostenible - ASCADES, Colombia
Asociación Campesina Huerto Renacer Sucre Cauca, Colombia
Asociación Consejo Regional del Pueblo Nasa del Putumayo KWE'SX KSXA'W, Colombia
Asociación de Desarrollo Integral Sostenible Perla Amazónica - ADISPA Putumayo, Colombia
Asociación de Productores y Procesadores Camino al Futuro - ASPROCAF-Putumayo, Colombia
Asociación de Productores y Procesadores Semillas de Paz - ASPROSEPAZ-Putumayo, Colombia
Asociación familiar de víctimas de ejecuciones extrajudicial sembradores de paz, Colombia
Asociación familias desplazadas del municipio de Argelia Cauca, Colombia
Censat Agua Viva - Amigos de la Tierra Colombia, Colombia
Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, Colombia
Comunidad de Autodeterminación Vida y Dignidad (CAVIDA), Colombia
Comunidad de Vida y Trabajo la Balsita- DABEIBA - Antioquia, Colombia
Comunidad Indígena Nonan - Resguardo Santarosa De Guayacan - Valle del Cauca, Colombia
Comunidades Indígenas Embera del Resguardo Urada Jiguamiando, Colombia
Consejo Comunitario De La Comunidad Negra Del Rio Naya- Valle del Cauca, Colombia
Consejos comunitarios asociados en ZH y ZB de Curbaradó y Jiguamiandó, Colombia
Escuela de Derechos Humanos Ullucos, Resguardo san Francisco Toribío- Cauca, Colombia
Grupo Autoayuda Los Andes Colombia - Alemania, Colombia
Grupo de Jovenes Raices de Dignidad Perla Amazónica - JURADIPA Asociación Campesina Bienandante Sucre Cauca, Colombia
Jóvenes Unidos Por El Bienestar Del Calima Jubca - Valle del Cauca, Colombia
Zona de Biodiversidad Buena Vista-Putumayo, Colombia
Zona de Biodiversidad El Triunfo-Putumayo, Colombia
Zona de Biodiversidad La Gurrera-Putumayo Pueblo Kamëntsä Alto Putumayo Grupo Porvenir, Colombia
Zona de Reserva Campesina Perla Amazónica-Putumayo, Colombia
Asociación Agroecologica Esther Cayapu - Trujillo, Colombia
Asociación Agroecologica Koinonía - Trujillo, Colombia
Asociación Agroecológica Asavip - Trujillo, Colombia
COECOCEIBA-Amigos de la Tierra, Costa Rica
Comisión Nacional de Enlace (CNE), Costa Rica
Colectivo Mujeres APE, Ecuador
Ecuador Decide, Ecuador
Jubileo 2000, Red Ecuador, Ecuador
Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina (OCMAL), Ecuador
ATTAC Finland, Finland
France Amerique Latine (FAL), France
Asociación de Maestros de Educación Rural de Guatemala, Guatemala
Asociación Q'anil, Guatemala
Ceiba/Amigos de la Tierra Guatemala, Guatemala
Consejo de Investigaciones e Información en Desarrollo CIID, Guatemala
Comité Regional Ambientalista, Valle de Siria, Honduras
Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indigenas de Honduras (COPINH), Honduras
Movimiento Madre Tierra Honduras, Honduras
Humanist Party of Iceland, Iceland
ATTAC, Japan, Japan
Japan Network on Debt & Poverty (DebtNet), Japan
Kamukunji Paralegal Trust (KAPLET), Kenya
Alianza Mexicana por la Autodeterminación de los Pueblos (AMAP), Mexico
Alianza por el Derechos a un Medio Ambiente Sano, Chiapas, Mexico
Asociación de Usuarios del Agua de Saltillo AUAS, Mexico
Centro de Estudios de la Región Cuicateca, Oaxaca, Mexico
Centro Mexicano de Justicia Ambiental (CMJA), Mexico
Ciudadanos en Apoyo a los Derechos Humanos, A.C., Mexico
Coalición de Organizaciones Mexicanas por el Derecho al Agua (COMDA), Mexico
Colectivo Cultural Corazon de Piedra Verde, Mexico
Colectivo de artesanos Urbanos manos que Hablan, Mexico
Instituto Mexicano de Desarrollo Comunitario (IMDEC), Mexico
La Ventana/Oaxaca, Mexico
Medio Ambiente y Sociedad A.C., Mexico
Movimiento Agrarista Indigena Zapatista MAIZ, Mexico
Movimiento Mexicano contra las Represas (MAPDER), Mexico
Otros Mundos, A.C./Amigos de la Tierra México, Mexico
Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC), Mexico
Red Mexicana de Afectados por la Minería (REMA), Mexico
Revuelta Verde/Marea Creciente, Mexico
Servicio paz y Justicia De tabasco, Mexico
Servicios para una Educación Alternativa AC (EDUCA)/ Oaxaca, Mexico
Union de Comunidades Indigenas de la Zona Norte del Istmo (UCIZONI-Mexico), Mexico
ASEED Europe, Netherlands
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Netherlands
Transnational Institute, Netherlands
Centro Alexander von Humboldt, Nicaragua
Movimiento Social Nicaraguense Otro mundo es Posible, Nicaragua
Labour, Health and Human Rights Development Centre, Nigeria
Norwegian Solidarity Committee for Latin America, Norway
Asociación de Defensa de la Vida, Peru
Cooperacción, Peru
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Phillipines
Africando, Spain
Colectivo El Salvador Elkartasuna, Spain
Ecologistas en Acción, Spain
Plataforma de Solidaridad con Chiapas y Guatemala de Madrid, Spain
People´s Health Movement (PHM), Sri Lanka
Sweden - America Latina (SAL), Sweden
Corner House, UK
Environmental Network for Central America, UK
REDES - Amigos de la Tierra, Uruguay

Contact for follow-up: John Cavanagh, Institute for Policy Studies

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