rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Solidarity rally in Toronto as decision released in OceanaGold v. El Salvador case

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

On Friday, dozens of people gathered outside the office of Chrystia Freeland, Minister of International Trade, to demonstrate their solidarity with the people of El Salvador who have waited seven years for a World Bank tribunal decision in the controversial case of OceanaGold v. El Salvador. The rally, organized by the Toronto-based Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN), and the Council of Canadians, demonstrated support for El Salvador's sovereignty in deciding to stop issuing mining licenses.  

In this multi-million dollar David-and-Goliath case, PacRim Cayman (now OceanaGold) sued El Salvador for $250 million (U.S.) for denying the company a mining permit. However, in a cautiously celebrated decision, the World Bank decided that Pac Rim's lawsuit was without merit and hence that El Salvador will not have to pay the company the $250 million that it sought.

Since 2009, a national roundtable of organizations in El Salvador (La Mesa), has opposed mining in the country and has rallied the overwhelming majority of the public against mining.  A 2015 poll commissioned by the University of Central America found that close to four-fifths of Salvadorans opposed mining.  El Salvador has one major watershed, the Lempa River, which supplies water for over half the country's population.  The proposed mine would threaten this watershed through both use of water and contamination.

Holding banners that read "Stop Corporate Bullying: ‘Free’ trade is a financial weapon" and "Mining Injustice is Canada’s Foreign Policy" those gathered denounced the overall lack of transparency and democracy associated with private tribunals, such as the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which heard the PacRim Cayman v. El Salvador case.

Rachel Small from the Council of Canadians stated that "mining companies take advantage of investor-state dispute clauses to force governments to make decisions that put corporate interests ahead of the welfare of their citizens."

Connie Sorio from Kairos read from a solidarity statement released by organizations in the Philippines also speaking out against the potential harms of OceanaGold’s operations. Local organizations in Nueva Vizcaya are calling for an end to mining operations and for their lands to be rehabilitated. The statement highlighted "massive environmental degradation, human rights abuses, and the pollution of waterways and agricultural lands in the area."  

Speakers pointed out that, in the ICSID, it is ultimately corporate lawyers – not judges – who decide whether governments must pay corporations for halting destructive mining projects. They also highlighted the absurdity of Canada’s ongoing praise of international trade deals and the assertion that they will contribute to economic development in countries like El Salvador. Others noted that these deals take power away from democratically-elected governments, placing it in the hands of corporations to make decisions that may negatively impact national economies. 

As Merle Davis, from the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) pointed out, "even though this case can be counted as a success in the struggle against corporate impunity, it demonstrates the punitive powers of an industry that itself operates with impunity."

Seven people have been killed while resisting OceanaGold/Pacific Rim's mining operations in El Salvador and the Philippines. At the rally their names were read aloud and flowers were laid to honour their lives:

June 18, 2009 - Gustavo Marcelo Rivera. A community leader and anti-mining activist, Rivera was disappeared. Less than two weeks later his corpse was found at the bottom of a 60-foot well, while an autopsy later revealed he was strangled to death and tortured.

December 20, 2009 - Ramiro Rivera and Felicita Echeverría. Rivera was Vice-President of the Comité Ambiental de Cabañas -- which works to educate the community about the health and environmental risks of cyanide contamination as a result of gold mining operations by Pacific Rim/OceanaGold in El Salvador. He and his neighbour, Felicita Echeverría, were killed in the same incident.

December 26, 2009 - Dora "Alicia" Sorto Recinos. An active opponent of Pacific Rim/OceanaGold's El Dorado gold mine in El Salvador, Sorto Recinos was shot and killed as she returned home from doing her laundry. She was eight months pregnant at the time. Her other small child was also injured in the attack.

June 17, 2011 - Juan Franciso Durán Ayala. A student anti-mining activist assassinated resisting Pacific Rim-OceanaGold in El Salvador.

December 7, 2012 - Cheryl Ananayo and Randy Nabayay. Ananayo was a member of Didipio Earthsavers Multipurpose Association (Desama), a people’s organization opposed to OceanaGold’s Didipio gold-copper project in Nueva Vizacaya, Philippines. Her cousin-in-law Randy Nabayay was killed in the same attack.

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story...

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all. But media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our only supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help.

If everyone who visits rabble and likes it chipped in a couple of dollars per month, our future would be much more secure and we could do much more: like the things our readers tell us they want to see more of: more staff reporters and more work to complete the upgrade of our website.

We’re asking if you could make a donation, right now, to set rabble on solid footing.

Make a donation.Become a monthly supporter.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.