A Decisive Day for the Environmental Future of El Salvador
This Wednesday, March 29, El Salvador became the first country in the world to completely ban metal mining. The country’s legislative assembly voted in favor of life and the people of El Salvador, and it is without a doubt a day to celebrate and be grateful for having reached this historic moment after 12 years of struggle to pass the law in order to protect the country’s environment and natural resources.
In the words of the Minister of the Environment Lina Pohl, “The Legislative Assembly of El Salvador unanimously approves the law to prohibit metallic mining.”
It is “an historic accomplishment, and an example for the world,” said Pohl.
This proposal for the prohibition of mining will change the Law of Mining, approved by the Salvadoran state in 1996. The previous law gave permits to overseas companies for the speculation and exploitation of precious metals, in addition to providing them with incentives to invest in El Salvador.
The passage of the ban on mining is the result of 12 years in which the socio-environmental movement, composed of many different sectors of civil society, has been working to prohibit mining in spite of resistance from companies and the assassinations of several leaders of the anti-mining movement in the northern department of Cabañas.
A few recent events contributed to pushing the movement forward and arriving at this point of definitively banning metal mining in El Salvador.
Recent History of #NoMineriasv
On January 10, the legislative assembly of El Salvador publicly took on the commitment to initiate the discussion to ban “in a definitive manner metal mining throughout all of the national territory.”
From that moment on, the show of support for the cause both within and beyond the country’s borders have generated an exceptional conjunction of forces to finally ban by law all metal mining in El Salvador.
On February 6 of this year, ecclesiastical authorities, together with priests and members of the UCA, Central American UniversityJosé Simeón Cañas, presented the law proposal to impede all metal mining activities in the country.
Monsignor Escobar Alas, the Archbishop of San Salvador, advocated for the ban of this “industry of death,” which is already damaging communities throughout the region.
On March 21, the Environmental Commission of the Legislative Assembly passed a recommendation to submit the mining ban proposal to the legislative body, made up of 84 representatives, to be voted on on March 29.
In the legal sphere, the tide also turned against mining corporations. A World Bank tribunal on March 28 ordered the Australian-Canadian transnational mining company Oceana Gold to pay over 8 million dollars in legal costs for a lawsuit about the retraction of the company’s permit that was resolved in 2016 in favor of El Salvador.
Significance for SERES Youth Leaders
Young people showed up, in order to ensure their rights were valued and respected, and were present in the capital when the passage of the law was announced on Wednesday. Youth members of ADES-SERES and the local ambassador network of SERES in El Salvador raised their voices to make sure their demands were heard, and to celebrate the achievement of the decades-long movement.
In the words of Mary Rivàs, member of the El Salvador SERES local ambassadors’ network and the Association for Local Development (Asociaciòn para el Desarrollo Local ADES): “Life won over gold!! Today El Salvador once again cried, ‘Yes we could.’ On this day the country achieved one of its greatest goals in passing the law against metal mining. The fight of Dora, Marcelo, and Ramiro [leaders assassinated in this struggle since 2009], social organizations and all of the Salvadoran people affirm that cooperation and working together has positive results. ‘Yes we could.’”
“To know that we now have a law that prohibits mining fills me with satisfaction. This day will remain marked in our minds and hearts, and all of us who are part of this cause to create a more just and sustainable world.” – Wendy Pérez, SERES ambassador
“For me, to have achieved today the passage of this law has lit a candle of hope for all of the Salvadoran people. Today we can say, ‘Yes we could!’ It is a day of impact and great triumph for the people.“ – Yeymy Ruíz, SERES ambassador and member of the executive board
-Antonio Sánchez, SERES facilitator and El Salvador program coordinator