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Pacific Rim at El Dorado mine, El Salvador

Human rights violations, killing of men and women activists, arbitration at World Bank's CIADI; finally the company had to leave.


The company in conflict is the Canadian Pacific Rim Mining Corporation, a transnational corporation active in the mining sector. The accusation regards the activities of the company in the Department of Cabañas, in El Salvador. Pacific Rim carried out exploration activities in the area, the effects of which implied that affected communities finally would deny selling their lands and leaving them to Pacific Rim for extractive activities, in view of the damages that the mining could have provoked. Indeed, a report about the mining project El Dorado from the International Union for the preservation of Nature, confirmed these fears, and demonstrated the risks of environmental impacts such as access to water reduction, water pollution, and impacts on agriculture and health. The intention of Pacific Rim Corporation is to exploit a gold mine in Cabañas, and the pressure it exerted for this aim generated conflicts, increased social divisions, and prompted threats and violence against the opposition to the project. These events, including the murder of several environmental activists, among others still need to be dealt with in depth. Pacific Rim, despite its failure to provide the required studies and reports, strongly denied these allegations and demanded 301 million dollars to El Salvador before the World Banks’ ICSID Tribunal. This proceeding has however disregarded the human and people’s rights of local populations, against article 3 of the Declaration of Universal Human Rights and several more articles of the of the environmental laws of El Salvador, many connected regulations, as well as the El Salvadorian Constitution.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Pacific Rim at El Dorado mine, El Salvador
Country:El Salvador
State or province:Cabañas
Location of conflict:San Isidro
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Specific commodities:Silver
Project Details and Actors
Project details

14.400 ha. de concesion reservas de 1.4 millones onzas de oro 10 años de vida util cinco vetas principales: Zancudo, Minita, Minita 3, Nueva Esperanza y Coyotera Uso de agua aproximadamente 328 millones de litros por año.

Project area:50,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2005
Company names or state enterprises:Pacific Rim from Canada
Pac Rim Cayman LLC - subsidary of Pacific Rim
Pacific Rim El Salvador S.A. from El Salvador - subsidary of Pacific Rim
Dorado Exploraciones S.A. - subsidary of Pacific Rim
Oceana Gold Corp from Australia
Relevant government actors:Gobierno de El Salvador
International and Finance InstitutionsInternational Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) from United States of America
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Mesa Nacional frente a la Minería de El Salvador, Comite Ambiental de Cabañas para la Defensa del Agua y los Recursos Naturales, Asociacion de Amigos de San Isidro-Cabañas, Mesa nacional frente a la mineria metalica en El Salvador, Asociacion de Desarrollo Economico y Social (ADES)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Social movements
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Presentation to the case to the Permanent Peoples Tribunal
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Specific impacts on women
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence
Other socio-economic impactsDeaths of several activists, among them Dora Alicia Recinos Sorto, in 2009, 32 years old, eight months pregnant and carrying her two-year old child.
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project cancelled
Development of alternatives:Propuesta de decreto de moratoria de exploracion y explotacion de mineria metalica en El Salvador
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The project has been stopped given the existence of cases of human rights violations and deaths of members of the opposition, however and despite the recommendations from the IACHR, the assassinations have still not been investigated. Maybe the most evident success was the de facto moratorium on metal mining that since 2008 have followed the successive presidents in El Salvador, who have committed not to issue exploitation permits. More than 300 organizations, labour unions and groups of civil society have pushed for this initiative.
El proyecto ha sido detenido debido a la existencia de casos de violación de derechos humanos y las muertes de opositores, sin embargo y pese a la existencia de un pronunciamiento de la CIDH, estos asesinatos aún no han sido esclarecidos. Quizás el éxito más evidente haya sido la moratoria de la minería de metal que desde 2008 han seguido los diferentes presidentes de El Salvador, quienes se han comprometido a no dar más permisos de explotación. Más de 300 organizaciones, sindicatos y grupos de la sociedad civil han sacado adelante esta iniciativa.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de America Latina OCMAL
[click to view]

Carbonell, M. H., 2012, Pacific Rim: El Dorado mine in El Salvador. EJOLT Factsheet, in EJOLT Report n. 7, Mining around the World. Common grounds from an environmental justice perspective, ed. by B. Ozkaynak and B. Rodriguez-Labajos
[click to view]

Debunking Eight Falsehoods by Pacific Rim Mining/OceanaGold in El Salvador, 2014, report published by the Blue Planet Project, the Council of Canadians, the Institute for Policy Studies, MiningWatch Canada and Oxfam International
[click to view]

[2] El Salvador -- Gold, Guns, and Choice:

The El Dorado gold mine, violence in Cabanas, CAFTA claims, and the national effort to ban mining - Richard Steiner, Professor


International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Commission on Environmental Economic, and Social Policy (CEESP)
[click to view]

Red Latinoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y Ambientales, GRUFIDES; Ingenieria Sin Fronteras, CATAPA y otros

Informe sobre la situación de riesgo y criminalización de las defensoras del medioambiente en America Latina

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

OceanaGold Corporation
[click to view]

The Christian Science Monitor, New wrinkle in battle over mining in El Salvador?
[click to view]

La Página, El Salvador derrota a empresa minera Pacific Rim en arbitraje internacional
[click to view]

New York Times - When Corporation Sue Governments
[click to view]

The Nation - Like Water for Gold in El Salvador
[click to view]

The Guardian - El Salvador groups accuse Pacific Rim of 'assault on democratic governance'
[click to view]

[click to view]

Aliados Internacionales contra la Mineria Metálica en El Salvador - No a la Mineria Metalica
[click to view]

Pacific Rim Mining Corp, El Dorado, El Salvador, updated in 2012
[click to view]

[1] Ministerio de Economia, lista de proyectos
[click to view]

[3] ISP - Luchas rurales empujan minería salvadoreña hacia la prohibición
[click to view]

[4] OAS - CIDH condena asesinato de defensor de derechos humanos en El Salvador, 2011
[click to view]

ContraPunto, El Salvador vale su peso en oro
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Al Jazeera - Protests halt gold mining in El Salvador
[click to view]

Empresa minera Pacific Rim aumenta extorsión contra El Salvador

Mesa Nacional frente a la Minería Metálica
[click to view]

Other comments:Impactos especificos sobre mujeres: "El arraigo que las mujeres tenemos con nuestros territorios se evidencia en todo este proceso de defensa de la madre tierra, siendo nosotras las principales afectadas por proyectos extractivistas que saquean y contaminan nuestras fuentes de agua, provocando infertilidad en los suelos atentando directamente contra nuestra soberanía alimentaria, pues somos mujeres cultivadoras de la tierra.
Durante el proceso de exploración que la empresa realiza desde 1994 se registran fuentes de agua que se profundizaron y se contaminaron, afectando el ganado y cultivos de campesinos y campesinas de la zona.
El historial que identifica la forma de operar de estas empresas extractivistas en todo el mundo ha sido y sigue siendo, usar todo tipo de artimaña para manipular las voluntades, generando división social, riñas entre vecinas y vecinos, en cabañas se registran fuertes casos de violencia que se han pretendido atribuir a violencia común, mas es claro que los detractores de la incansable lucha que se libra en defensa de los territorios, tendrán que ser investigados."
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Contributor:Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power, Transnational Institute - TNI, and Patricio Chavez & Joan Martinez Alier
Last update18/08/2019
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