Published: March 3, 2014
By: Earthworks et. al.
The signers of this petition are XXX international and national civil society organizations. We are writing out of solidarity with the communities of El Salvador that have been working through the democratic process to prevent a proposed cyanide-leach gold mining project, over well- founded risks that it will poison the local communities’ environment as well as the country’s most important river and source of water.
Rather than complying with the environmental permitting process of El Salvador, the Canadian company Pacific Rim launched an attack under the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). While that approach was rejected for lack of jurisdiction, Pacific Rim was still allowed to continue the arbitration based on an outdated investment law that has since been amended by the Salvadoran General Assembly. On that basis, the case remains before the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
Pacific Rim is demanding $301 million US dollars in compensation from the government of El Salvador or to provide it with an operating permit in spite of the huge risks to the country’s water supply.
Pacific Rim is using ICSID to subvert a democratic nationwide debate over mining and environmental health in El Salvador. When it comes to such issues, local democratic institutions should prevail, not foreign corporations seeking to exploit natural resources.
These matters should not be decided by the World Banks’ investor state arbitration tribunal or any other foreign tribunal. To make things worse, in the course of Pacific Rim’s intervention in the political affairs of El Salvador, four anti-mining activists have been murdered in the project area.
We urge you to review the role of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and to determine if it supports the Bank’s mission of ending poverty and promoting responsible and sustainable economic development.
We urge you to undertake this review through an open process with public hearings and the ability for mining affected communities and their allies to present evidence of the harm done by corporations using the investor - state arbitration process to undermine the public interest laws and regulatory structures in countries of the Global South.
We stand with the people of El Salvador in their demand that their domestic governance processes and national sovereignty be respected. The Pacific Rim ICSID arbitration is a direct assault against democratic governance. We stand on the side of democracy.