Open letter to OceanaGold

Posted on September 10, 2014  Tagged with: ,
Sep 102014

Jim Askew, Chairman of the Board of Directors
Michael Wilkes, Managing Director and CEO

We are writing in solidarity with the people of El Salvador demanding that OceanaGold and its subsidiary, Pac Rim Cayman, immediately withdraw their $301 million claim at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) against El Salvador. The people of El Salvador have resoundingly rejected your plans to mine gold in their small, densely-populated country given the substantial risks that industrial gold mining poses to local communities’ environment and to the country’s most important water source.

Since 2005, mining-affected communities; broad segments of Salvadoran civil society including the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining and the Catholic Church; the Human Rights Ombudsperson’s Office; political parties; government institutions; and public opinion have categorically opposed industrial mining in El Salvador given the negative impacts of proposed projects on an environmentally stressed country largely dependent on a single watershed. In a rare instance of a national, non-partisan, widely concerted consensus, in 2008, the Government of El Salvador introduced a de facto moratorium on large-scale mining that the current administration of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén has steadfastly committed to maintain.

Despite this widespread opposition to mining in El Salvador, in October 2013, your company – OceanaGold -acquired Pacific Rim Mining, whose only active mining project had been rejected by the Government of El Salvador. Rather than complying with El Salvador’s environmental permitting protocols and accepting the country’s clear democratic will, Pacific Rim launched a multi-million dollar legal attack through its subsidiary, the hastily Nevada-registered Pac Rim Cayman, under the US-Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). While that approach was rightfully rejected by the ICSID for lack of jurisdiction, Pacific Rim was still allowed to continue its now $301 million claim based on obsolete Salvadoran investment legislation that has since been amended.

What’s more, your company acquired a mining project tainted by deadly conflict. Four community members in Cabañas opposed to Pacific Rim’s project near their homes have been assassinated since 2009, and the full circumstances of their murders have yet to be investigated. Many other community members still live under continuous death threats.

Given all this, we are astonished that OceanaGold has vowed to continue pursuing its claim against the people of El Salvador and use the ICSID to subvert democratic decision-making over mining and environmental health in El Salvador. These matters should not be decided by the World Banks’ investor state arbitration tribunal or any other foreign tribunal. When it comes to such issues, local democratic institutions should prevail, not bullying by foreign corporations such as yours seeking to exploit natural resources.

The stakes for Salvadorans are high. The legal costs and a potentially negative outcome of the suit could deteriorate the government’s already taxed capacity to prevent further migrations, curb the chronic insecurity in the country, and implement policies for sustainable economic growth. A democratically elected government should not be punished for standing up for its people’s best interests.

Your claim is a direct assault on democracy and justice. We demand that OceanaGold respect El Salvador’s national sovereignty and immediately withdraw its $301 million claim against the people of El Salvador.

Alta Amazonia Celendin
Blue Planet Project
Café Rebelde Collective, Vancouver
Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL)
Committee to support Social Development in El Salvador (CODESES – Vancouver)
Common Frontiers
Focus on the Global South
Food and Water Europe
Food and Water Watch
Foro del Agua El Salvador,
Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)
Fundación Abril, Bolivia
Grassroots Africa
Ingeniería Sin Fronteras – Cataluña
Inter Pares
International Allies Against Metal Mining in El Salvador
Jubilee South
Latin America Solidarity Committee – Milwaukee
Latin American Solidarity Network
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network
Mining Watch Canada
National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements
Penca de Sábila Colombia
Plataforma de Acuerdos Públicos Comunitarios
Polaris Institute
PSI Subregional Secretary
  Public Services International
  México, Central America and Dominican Republic
Rede Guarani/Serra Geral
Red Vida
Rights Action (Canada/USA)
Sisters of Mercy, Mercy International Association at the UN
SOSte to Nero
The Democracy Center
The Esperanza Project
The Madison Arcatao Sister City Project
The Midwest Coalition Against Lethal Mining
The Network for Justice in Global Investment
Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina
Voices on the Border
Wisconsin Resources Protection Council

If your organization would like to sign on to this open letter, please contact

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