More than 99 percent of the communities voted against mining projects in their territory in a consultation held on Sunday, with a participation rate of about 68 percent. Only five people voted for mining projects, while 811 voted against, with three blank votes, out of the 1,115 able to vote in the municipality.
On Monday, the Council of the municipality of San Jose Las Flores, Chalatenango state, revealed the results and declared their territory the first one “free of mining” in El Salvador.
In a statement published in the Salvadorean journal El Pais, Daniel Morales, a human rights lawyer, recommended the Salvadorean state recognize the results expressed in the vote and adopt the relevant position on the mining issue at a national level. He also recommended transnational companies respect this informed decision, adopted democratically by the communities.
This First Popular Consultation took place peacefully under local, national and international observance, with the participation of countries like Canada, United States, Guatemala, Honduras and Guatemala, as well as the Salvadorean attorney for the defense of human rights and representatives of associations against mining projects.
After the results, the National Board against Metallic Mining described the process as "successful," adding that without a doubt this represented a "historical achievement".
The initiative is part of a campaign by the National Board against Metallic Mining and Oxfam against Pacific Rim/OceanaGold in order to draw national and international attention to the issue. OceanaGold is a gold mining company, and in 2009, Pacific Rim sued the Salvadoran state at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), attached to the World Bank. It is now claiming over US$300,000.
The left government of Mauricio Funes had refused to let the Canadian company Pacific Rim exploit El Dorado gold mine in the state of Cabañas, arguing that mining exploitation would endanger the water supplies in the country, as chemical substances like cyanide and arsenic used to split the metal from the rocks would then leak into the rivers and reservoirs.
On Saturday the trial continued. A sentence will likely be handed down by 2015.