International Tribunal to Issue Long-Awaited Decision on Mining Lawsuit Against El Salvador on Friday, October 14
Thursday, October 13, 2016
After over seven years and millions of dollars in expenses, the controversial World Bank tribunal that has been hearing the case of PacRim Cayman (now OceanaGold) vs. El Salvador will make public its decision on the case on Friday, October 14.
In tandem with the El Salvador Attorney General's official press conference in Washington D.C., speakers will announce the verdict live at a rally at 4:30pm outside of International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland's office. The crowd will be gathered in solidarity with El Salvador under a "Stop Corporate Bullying!" banner.
What: Solidarity rally against corporate bullying as the Oceanagold vs. El Salvador decision is released
When: 4:30-6:30pm, Friday Oct. 13
Where: 344 Bloor St. West (outside International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland's office)
In 2008, after years of violence, conflict, environmental degradation, and water pollution at the hands of mining companies, then-president of El Salvador Antonio Saca stopped issuing new mining permits. This decision has widespread support in El Salvador; a recent poll of the University of Central America (UCA) indicates that that 79.5% of Salvadorans are against any gold mining.
In 2009, OceanaGold (then called Pacific Rim) sued El Salvador through an "investor-state dispute settlement" (ISDS) case at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the World Bank Group's arbitration venue. The charge? "Loss of potential profits". These types of suits are increasingly possible under free trade agreements, including ones currently being negotiated by the Canadian government (for example: the TPP and CETA).
If OceanaGold wins, the Salvadoran people will be required to pay $250 million USD, a morally reprehensible demand. Already, in the seven years that this arbitration has gone on, $12 million USD in legal costs have been incurred, which is enough to pay for over two years of adult literacy classes in El Salvador.
Given the current global economic context, none of this is surprising: Canada is home to over 75% of the global mining industry, and this is because the Canadian government provides very little in terms of accountability mechanisms for communities impacted by the mining industry and actively promotes this industry's interests through trade agreements, investment treaties, and foreign policy. ISDS mechanisms found in trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and the impending Trans-Pacific Partnership prevent governments like that of El Salvador from saying no to foreign investments that threaten the environment and health of local populations.
The number of investor-state suits like these has ballooned in recent years. As of 2013, there were 169 investor-state suits being heard at ICSID, up from only 3 in 2000. About 35% were brought by oil, gas, and mining firms and nearly 50% of all 169 suits were against Latin American governments.
These suits take place far beyond any democratic process or court system and undermine democratic decision-making and regulatory measures that protect the public interest in El Salvador, in Canada, and around the world.
Dozens of groups in El Salvador, the United States, Canada, Australia, and the Philippines, which have supported El Salvador's decision to stop issuing new mining licenses, have been urging the tribunal to drop the case or to issue a ruling against the mining company. These groups, which came together in a network called International Allies (www.stopesmining.org) have supported the work of a national roundtable of organizations in El Salvador (La Mesa), which has opposed mining in the country and which has rallied the overwhelming majority of the public against mining. A 2015 poll commissioned by the University of Central America found close to four-fifths of Salvadorans opposed to mining. El Salvador has one major watershed, the Lempa River, which supplies water for over half the country's population. The river would be threatened by the toxic chemicals used in gold mining.
La Mesa and International Allies will release statements after the decision is released by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) on Friday, October 14, and leaders of these groups will be available to the press for comment.