No to Mining! – Community Referendum in El Salvador

No to Mining! – Community Referendum in El Salvador
14th April 2015 Christliche Initiative Romero

No to mining! – community referendum in El Salvador

On 29 March 99 % of the local people voted against gold mining in the Community of Nueva Trinidad in El Salvador. This referendum can give further inspiration to other countries to step up against new mining projects harming communities and the environment.

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No to mining 99 % of the voters voted against gold mining in the Community of Nueva Trinidad in El Salvador

March 30th 2015 – On March 27th Marcos Galves, the president of the Salvadorian grassroots organization CRIPDES, spoke via Skype to the press conference of the launch of the campaign “Stop Mad Mining – For Ethical Mining and Resource Consumption”. The press conference was organized by Christian Initiative Romero (CIR) and Powershift. In his statement, Marcos talked about two local referenda carried out towards the end of 2014, and announced a third referendum for March 29th. The earlier polls took place in the communities of San José Las Flores and San Isidro, where very clear majorities voted against mining. Now, we understand that an overwhelming 99% of the voters in the community of Nueva Trinidad said no to the potential exploration and exploitation of gold in the most recent referendum.

Even the exploration causes damages.

In the last years the government in El Salvador has given exploratory concessions to about 30 companies for gold mining projects in the north of the country. Those companies have already caused social and environmental damage, even though the mining has not started yet. In some cases, they have been responsible for ground water deposits drying up. Marcos noted that“ the most dramatic case was in the El Dorado mine, where conflicts inside the communities led to the killing of six people who protested against the mining”.
The case of the community of San Sebastián in the centre of the country illustrates the damage can cause mining projects where metals are actually exploited. The US company Commerce Group extracted gold there until the 1980s. Today both the land and water are polluted by heavy metals and acid mine drainage, which has led to the occurrence of serious diseases. According to Marcos Galves, the financial benefits which remain in the country from future mining projects would not even be enough to deal with the environmental damages.

Local referenda as instruments for resistance

The Mesa Nacional Frente la Minería Metálica (umbrella organization of the anti-mining movement) pursued a legislative agenda to comb at mining on the national level. However, that has not been successful, primarily because of the political situation in the national congress. Therefore the round table is currently pursuing the strategy of carrying out local referenda, to allow affected communities to express their opinions on mining. International and national election observers guaranteed that the polls take place without the fear of intimidation from the companies.
Observación de JRV (2)

The voter turnout was 62 % (809 of 1,308 inhabitants). “I gave my vote because I don’t want them to destroy the countryside”, says Rosalina López, an inhabitant of Nueva Trinidad. Representatives of the government have also spoken in favor of the referendum: “It’s a legitimate participation mechanism, in which the majority of the population decides, rather than the interests of a minority”, stated Marcos Rodríguez of the Governmental Office for Citizens’ Participation. Stop Mad Mining: The right of people to say no The referenda in El Salvador could be an inspiration for other countries where mining and environmental conflicts are taking place. The “Stop MadMining” Campaign advocates for the right of communities to clearly say no to mining projects. CRIPDES is committed to this international campaign, because it raises awareness in Europe of the social and environmental impacts of mining and the struggle of the anti mining movement. We congratulate CRIPDES and the community of Nueva Trinidad for the impressive result and wish good luck for the future referenda which will be carried out in the Department of Chalatenango!

Text by Christian Wimberger,Christian Initiative Romero