Protest in front of the area where Pacific Rim is exploring in Cabanas, El Salva

Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan is currently on a fact-finding mission on mining and water in El Salvador. She is participating in an international delegation that includes people from 12 countries and 22 organizations.

On Friday, she was in the capital city of San Salvador. At the media conference that began that day, she spoke about international solidarity for the struggle to protect water in El Salvador and the leadership social movements in that country have provided to the world. That afternoon, she spoke on a panel along side Manuel Perez Rocha, who is with the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, and Vidalina Morales, a Salvadoran activist who has been leading the struggle against a Canadian-based mining company in her community.

On Saturday, Karunananthan visited Cabanas, a province about 80 kilometres northeast of San Salvador. People in this province have been resisting attempts by Vancouver-based Pacific Rim to establish a gold and silver mine that would draw about 30,000 litres of water a day for its operations and could pollute their local water source with cyanide.

In response to the decision by the Salvadoran government to not proceed with the mine, Pacific Rim (through its U.S.-based subsidiary) launched a $77 million U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement challenge in 2008. In June 2012, a World Bank arbitration panel ruled that CAFTA could not be used to pursue the challenge, but decided that the case can still be pursued under the national investment law in El Salvador in a process that will be overseen by the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes. In early-April of this year, Pacific Rim filed a US$315-million damage claim against the Government of El Salvador.

In San Isidro, a community in Cabanas province, Morales and Karunananthan spoke at a workshop focused on strategies for an international campaign against Pacific Rim. Karunananthan writes, “We heard from members of the community about the strong resistance to Pacific Rim and the ways they have organized to ensure that community voices are heard. We also stopped and chanted in front of the area where Pacific Rim is exploring.”

And on Sunday, Karunananthan travelled to the community near the Cerro Blanco mine in southwestern Guatemala. This mine, owned by Vancouver-based Goldcorp, is located just 18 kilometres from the El Salvador border and poses a direct threat to the Lempa River which provides drinking water for three million Salvadorans.

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Brent Patterson

Brent Patterson is a political activist, writer and the executive director of Peace Brigades International-Canada. He lives in Ottawa on the traditional, unceded and unsurrendered territories of the Algonquin...