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Saturday, May 29, 2010

CANADIAN MINING COMPANY PACIFIC RIM COMES UNDER FIRE FROM ENVIRONMENTAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS

CANADIAN MINING COMPANY PACIFIC RIM COMES UNDER FIRE FROM ENVIRONMENTAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS
Simultaneous demonstrations held in advance of World Bank hearing;
Lawsuit against El Salvador under U.S. trade agreement draws sharp criticism

In advance of a hotly-contested case that will be heard at the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) of the World Bank on May 31, a broad coalition of environmental, human rights, and trade organizations held vibrant demonstrations in Washington, DC, Boston, New York, Seattle, and Portland to expose the suspicious conduct of Vancouver, BC-based mining company Pacific Rim.

Representatives of the company appeared in the form of giant headless suits, skeletons on stilts, and the Grim Reaper. Protestors chanted the names of three prominent anti-mining activists, Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera and Dora Alicia Sorto Recinos, who have been murdered in the last year, held up oversized photos of neon-orange rivers contaminated by the cyanide used in gold extraction and handed out bottles of cloudy, discolored water to passersby.

The proposed El Dorado mine has faced overwhelming opposition from local communities since its proposal, primarily due to the grave environmental risks; the company sought to use 2 tons of cyanide per day and 20-26 gallons of water per second in an country with very limited access to water. At the rally in DC, rural organizer Vidalina Morales explained, "Most people in our towns are subsistence farmers who get by on the little that they can grow. If our lands are destroyed and our water is contaminated, we cannot survive."

Beth Geglia of NISGUA, the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala explained, "In the cases of Guatemala and Hondruas, gold mining has threatened the liveliness of small farmers and has caused water contamination. Technical studies release last week on the marlin mine owned by Goldcorp show higher levels of metals in the blood of those who live closest to the mine."

The Salvadoran government chose not to grant Pacific Rim's application for exploitation permits, as the company had failed to meet requirements. In response, the company opened a subsidiary in Reno, NV in order to file a lawsuit for hundreds of millions under the foreign investor rights provisions of CAFTA, the U.S.- Central American Free Trade Agreement, making this the first environmental case under the widely-opposed trade deal.

Manuel PĂ©rez-Rocha, from the institute for Policy Studies, a Washington, DC-based think tank, which recently published a study, "Mining for Profits in International Tribunals," said, "This case is exemplary of the proliferation of foreign investors that want to use the provisions of the free trade agreements to threaten countries that attempt to protect the human rights of their citizens. IPS awarded the prestigious Letelier-Moffit Human Rights award to the National Coalition against Metallic Mining in El Salvador in October of 2009 for their work to pass a national ban on mining in El Salvador; Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera and Dora Alicia Sorto Recinos were all members.

Miguel Rivera, the brother of Marcelo Rivera who was kidnapped and tortured on June 18 2009, spoke out in Washington. The violence is a direct result of the free trade agreements" which "limit the government's ability to defend the life of its residents and put economic rights above people's right to live."

Lisa Fuller, program director for CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, agreed, saying "It is outrageous that U.S. trade policy gives private companies the right to privately sue a sovereign nation for upholding desperately-needed environmental protections." She reminded the crowd that President Obama promised to "severely restrict" these same rules during his Presidential campaign. Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, which promotes fair trade and economic democracy, anticipates that foreign investor protections will be a top issue in the upcoming negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the first for President Obama.

In simultaneous actions in Seattle and Portland, constituents called on Representatives and Senators to end the trade model currently enshrined in NAFTA. In New York and Boston, actions at the Canadian consulates faulted the government for near-absence of regulation of the mining industry, fostering the impunity of companies that notoriously abuse human rights and the environment.

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