How An International Grassroots Campaign Beat Metal Mining Corporations


(Photo: Flickr/ Mobilus In Mobili)

The cry of “water is life” has spread from farmers in El Salvador, over a decade ago, to families in Flint, Michigan, to the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota, and now to lawmakers in El Salvador.

On March 29, this small Central American country’s national legislature stood up to enormous pressure from global mining corporations and passed the world’s first comprehensive ban on metals mining, a toxic industry that threatened El Salvador’s water supply.

This historic vote would have been unthinkable until very recently. On a trip to El Salvador last summer, we asked a wide range of people, including the chair of the Legislative Committee on the Environment and Climate Change, if they could imagine El Salvador ever passing a legislative ban on industrial mining, given its devastating environmental costs. Everyone told us versions of “no.”

Yet on Tuesday, March 28, one of us stood with that very same legislative chair, Dr. Guillermo Mata, an hour before he rallied his committee to a unanimous vote for just such a ban. The next day, the full legislature voted in the ban, with all members present from all parties voting in favor.

To understand the extraordinary nature of this victory, you need to understand the tens of millions of dollars that mining companies have been dangling in the faces of Salvadoran farmers and politicians alike for over a decade.

As The Nation has chronicled in a series of articles, mining companies rushed into the country in the early 2000s as gold and other mineral prices skyrocketed, in part due to the rapid growth of the Chinese economy. Skeptical farmers in the gold-rich north of the country visited communities near gold mines in nearby Honduras and came home with stories of environmental havoc unleashed by the toxic cyanide used to separate the gold from the surrounding rock.

Read the full article on The Nation’s website.


After Seven Years and Millions of Dollars, Decision Announced in Pac Rim Mining Company vs. El Salvador

International Allies against Mining in El SalvadorFor Release October 14, 2016

Cabañas, El Salvador / Washington DC / Ottawa / Melbourne – Civil society groups worldwide that have allied with Salvadoran communities and organizations working on mining and environmental issues reacted to today’s decision by the controversial International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) on the seven-year old case of Pac Rim Cayman vs. El Salvador, stating that “there are no winners” in this case.  On Friday, October 14, the tribunal announced their decision 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.

In 2009, Pac Rim Cayman LLC brought an “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) case against El Salvador at the World Bank Group’s arbitration venue, ICSID.  The company, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canadian-Australian company OceanaGold, sued El Salvador for alleged losses of potential profits as a result of not being granted a mining concession for a gold project. The government of El Salvador did not issue the concession because the company failed to meet key regulatory requirements.

“The fact that Pac Rim – now OceanaGold – could sue El Salvador when it has never had a license to operate, is an abuse of process,” says Manuel Pérez-Rocha of the Institute for Policy Studies. “That these suits take place far from any transparent, independent court system demonstrates why we are opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other so called free trade agreements.”

This case is part of what led the Government of El Salvador to decide not to issue new mining permits.  That decision has widespread support in El Salvador; a recent poll of the University of Central America (UCA) indicates that 79.5% of Salvadorans are against any gold mining.

The civil society groups from the four countries, which came together in 2009 as International Allies, praised the communities in El Salvador that have opposed the mining company and have rallied the Salvadoran public and government to oppose new mining projects despite heavy pressure from the mining company.  They expressed disgust that El Salvador had to pay over $ 12 million to fund its defense in a case where the mining company never fulfilled all the legal or environmental requirements for a mining license.

“Irrevocable damage has already been done to communities in El Salvador,” says the Salvadoran Roundtable against Metallic Mining (La Mesa).  “Pac Rim’s presence in El Salvador has fomented local conflict, which has led to threats, attacks, and assassinations. We want OceanaGold, and all the misery it has caused, out of El Salvador, and for the government to enact a prohibition on any metal mining.”

“By allowing transnational companies to blackmail governments to try to force them to adopt policies that favor corporations, investor-state arbitration undermines democracy in El Salvador and around the world,” says Marcos Orellana of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). “Regardless of the outcome, the arbitration has had a chilling effect on the development and implementation of public policy necessary to protect the environment and the human right to water.”

“This is one of now far too many examples of Canadian mining companies making use of international arbitration to bully governments when their mine projects lack community consent and have not met legal or regulatory requirements. In contrast, communities have no effective means to hold these same companies to account for the systematic and serious harms resulting from their operations”, says Jen Moore of MiningWatch Canada.

“What we have now is a clear example of what is wrong with investor-state-dispute-settlement clauses, whether they are inserted in domestic laws or bilateral or multilateral investment agreements. El Salvador’s experience confirms the threats to human rights and the environment that occur when corporations bring a suit to tribunals like ICSID,” explained Robin Broad, professor at the American University.

“A mining company that calls itself responsible should not be using mechanisms like ICSID to force governments to do its bidding.  Countries like El Salvador have a right to say no to mining without fear of a massive lawsuit”, said Keith Slack of Oxfam America.

“At a time of water scarcity, it is unconscionable for the global trade and investment regime to deny governments of water-stressed countries like El Salvador the policy space to protect local watersheds and ensure the realization of the human right to water,” says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

“It was morally reprehensible for Oceana Gold to demand $ 250 million USD from the Salvadoran people. This is a staggering amount for a cash-strapped country that could be much better used for education, health care, or other social services. This amount would fund the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources of El Salvador for more than one decade. The legal costs alone are enough to pay for over 2 years of adult literacy classes for 140,000 people,” says Emeritus Catholic Bishop Hilton Deakin of Melbourne, Australia.

“Let us be clear: El Salvador has lost a lot during all this arbitration. El Salvador had to pay more than $ 12 million, just to defend itself. These legal costs are enough to pay for over 2 years of adult literacy classes for 140,000 people. At a minimum, OceanaGold should reimburse El Salvador for the costs of this suit, which never should have taken place. And it should also be responsible for the social and environmental damage left in its wake,” says Alexis Stoumbelis of CISPES.

“This is a yet another case of corporate power being exercised against a democratic Government decision. If Australia ratifies the TTP there will be more of this to come” said Ged Kearney President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

“ISDS is part of a trade model that puts the needs of corporations before the needs of workers and the planet. The Salvadoran government did what a responsive democratic system is supposed to do: it listened to the desires and priorities of its constituents and acted accordingly” said Cathy Feingold, International Director of the AFL-CIO.

Media Contacts:
Manuel Perez Rocha, IPS –, + 1 240 838 6623
John Cavanagh, IPS –, +1 202 234 9382
Amanda Kistler, CIEL –, +1 202 742-5832
Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada –, +1 613 569 3439
Laura Rusu, Oxfam America –, +1 202 459 3739
Robin Broad, American University –, + 1 202 885 1478
Kevin Bracken, Maritime Union of Australia –
Sean Cleary, Edmund Rice Centre –, +  07-3376-8448


The International Allies against Mining in El Salvador are made up of organizations from Australia, Canada and the United States that support the Salvadoran people as they demand sovereignty, the right to water, healthy communities and a clean environment. Each of the organizations that make up the Allies has a history of solidarity work with El Salvador. More information is available at:

The post After Seven Years and Millions of Dollars, Decision Announced in Pac Rim Mining Company vs. El Salvador appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.


Preliminary MSHA data indicate 2015 was safest year in mining history

Preliminary MSHA data indicate 2015 was safest year in mining history

ARLINGTON, Va. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration today released preliminary data for calendar year 2015, updating the “Mine Safety and Health at a Glance” page. The charts include information on inspections, violations and number of mines and miners. They also show fatality and injury rates for coal, metal and nonmetal, and all mining.

The data show that last year was the safest year in mining history, both in terms of number of deaths and fatal and injury rates. These rates are calculated based on hours of miners’ exposure, a relative measure taking into account recent employment changes in the mining market.

“The progress we made in 2015 is good news for miners and the mining industry. It is the result of intensive efforts by MSHA and its stakeholders that have led to mine site compliance improvements, a reduction of chronic violators, historic low levels of respirable coal dust and silica, and a record low number of mining deaths,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

In 2015, 28 miners died in mining accidents, down from 45 in 2014. The fatal injury rate, expressed as reported injuries per 200,000 hours worked, was the lowest in mining history for all mining at 0.0096, down from 0.0144 in 2014 and 0.0110 in 2011 and 2012. 

The fatal injury rate for coal mining in 2015 was 0.0121, the lowest rate ever. The previous fatal injury rate low was set in 2011, during a period of peak employment in the coal industry.

In the metal and nonmetal mining industry, both the number of fatalities and the fatal injury rate were cut almost in half from the previous year’s figures. The fatal injury rate of 0.0085 was close to the all-time low of 0.0079 set in 2012. 

The all-injury rate – reported by mine operators – also dropped to a new low in 2015 at 2.28. Coal’s all-injury rate fell to 2.88, the first time it dropped below 3.0. Metal and nonmetal’s all-injury rate fell to a new low of 2.01.

The numbers of miners and mining operations were down in 2015, and accordingly, MSHA conducted fewer inspections. Even accounting for the decline in the number of mines, compliance improved, demonstrated by an 11 percent reduction in the number of citations and orders issued.

Assessments of penalties dropped to $ 62.3 million in 2015, with approximately 2 percent of violations not yet assessed.

MSHA will release a final version of the calendar year data in July.

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How LatAm Failed to Halt Rise of Illegal Gold Mining –
How LatAm Failed to Halt Rise of Illegal Gold Mining
In addition, the report describes both the environmental and the human toll exacted by this criminalization of informal mining, which has led to widespread deforestation and mercury poisoning and been linked to displacement, forced labor and sex


Sustainable Australian agriculture under corporate attack from mining, banks and agribusinesses – Green Left Weekly

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Three coal mining deaths in 19 days are ‘troubling,’ says MSHA chief

Three coal mining deaths in 19 days are ‘troubling,’ says MSHA chief

ARLINGTON, Va. – Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph A. Main today issued the following statement regarding the first three coal mining deaths of 2016:

“In just the first three weeks of 2016, and after the safest year in mining history, the coal industry has experienced three fatalities in three separate mining accidents, the highest number of coal accidents to occur in the same time period since January 2006.

  • On Jan. 4, a 53-year-old miner was killed when he became entangled in a moving underground conveyor in West Virginia.
  • On Jan. 16, a 31-year-old miner was killed when falling material pinned the victim to the mine floor in Pennsylvania.
  • On Jan. 19, a 36-year-old miner was killed when he became pinned between a continuous mining machine and a coal rib in Kentucky.

“In light of declining coal market conditions, we all need to be mindful that effective safety and health protections that safeguard our nation’s coal miners need to be in place every day at every mine in the country.

“All miners deserve to work their shifts and return home at the end of the day, safe and healthy. To that end, the Mine Safety and Health Administration plans to ramp up its targeted enforcement, education and outreach efforts to respond to the troubling number of mining fatalities that have occurred so far this year. Today, MSHA widely disseminated to industry stakeholders an alert on these deaths, emphasizing the need for continued vigilance in miner safety and health.”

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Workers affected by coal mining industry layoffs in Pennsylvania to receive reemployment assistance with $2M in funding

Workers affected by coal mining industry layoffs in Pennsylvania to receive reemployment assistance with $ 2M in funding

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded POWER Initiative National Dislocated Worker Grant funding of $ 2 million to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry to help provide reemployment services required by coal industry workers to prepare for positions in emerging and growing fields.  

The department previously announced the availability of up to $ 20 million in these Dislocated Worker Grants as part of the Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization initiative. The initiative is a coordinated effort among 10 federal agencies that makes integrated investments in communities and workers hurt by changes in the coal economy, where job losses in recent years have continued a decades-long trend.

The funds will serve workers approximately 1,100 dislocated workers affected by layoffs at six coal mining employers, as well as two coal industry suppliers. The project will focus on jobs to support the extraction of shale gas in the area, and to prepare for the possibility of an ethane cracker plant in Beaver County. The region is also focusing on manufacturing jobs to expand opportunities in metals manufacturing using advances made in new materials, digital technology and energy production. Of the $ 2 million in funding, $ 1,276,400 will be released initially.

POWER Initiative NDWG awards range from $ 500,000 to $ 2 million, and support the planning and implementation of workforce strategies for regions and communities that are negatively impacted by changes in the coal economy. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis through June 30, 2017.

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Mining misery in Brazil – Al Jazeera America

Al Jazeera America
Mining misery in Brazil
Al Jazeera America
Brazil's Congress, which became increasingly unsympathetic to labor protections and indigenous rights after elections in October sent to office more senators and deputies close to landowners and business factions, is drafting a law that could narrow


Peru’s Media-Friendly Mining Ban Conceals Toxic Inaction – Truth-Out

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Registration with the authorities would oblige miners to pay taxes, submit environmental impact reports, and abide by labor standards. By all appearances, Humala's crackdown on … A closer examination of Peru's informal mining ban, however, raises


MSHA: Coal mining deaths at historic low

Preliminary data released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration indicates that 40 miners died in work-related accidents at the nation’s mines in 2014, two fewer than in the previous year.* Coal mining deaths dropped from 20 in 2013 to 16 in 2014, the lowest annual number of coal mining deaths ever recorded in the United States. The previous record low was 18 in 2009. |||||||