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UPDATE: ‘Shout Out’ marches to Pacific Rim offices in Vancouver

Our ‘Shout Out Against Mining Injustice’ conference has taken to the streets of Vancouver again!

About 175 people have marched from our conference location at Simon Fraser University to the corporate offices of Vancouver-based Pacific Rim at 625 Howe Street.

Speakers at this rally include ‘Shout Out’ conference participants Vidalina Morales de Gámez, a member of The National Roundtable against Metallic Mining in El Salvador, also known as La Mesa; John Cavanagh, a director with the Washington, DC-based Institute for Policy Studies; Jamie Kneen, the Communications and Outreach Coordinator at MiningWatch: and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

In 2007, the Ministry of Environment in El Salvador denied Vancouver-based mining company Pacific Rim the permits needed for their proposed El Dorado gold and silver mine.

The Inter Press Service has reported, “Peasant farmers from the northern Salvadoran province of Cabañas fear that mining operations (by Pacific Rim) planned for the region will consume 30,000 litres of water a day, drawn from the same sources that currently provide local residents with water only once a week. Environmentalists and experts have also warned that if the operations begin…the cyanide that would be used by Pacific Rim to extract gold and silver could contaminate the area’s groundwater and soil.”

In retaliation to the decision by the democratically-elected Salvadoran government, Pacific Rim (through its US-based subsidiary) launched a $77 million US-Central America Free Trade Agreement challenge in 2008.

Last night, Reuters reported, “Pacific Rim argues El Salvador is violating the rules of CAFTA and brought its claim to international arbitration.”

While a World Bank arbitration panel ruled yesterday that CAFTA could not be used to pursue the challenge, it has apparently decided that the case can still be pursued under investor-friendly legislation in El Salvador in a process that will be overseen by the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

As further explained by the Institute for Policy Studies, “The tribunal accepted jurisdiction over claims related to violations of El Salvador’s national investment law. Thus, the case will advance to the merits phase of the legal proceedings, which could drag on for years. Regardless of the final decision, it will likely result in millions of dollars in legal fees and could open the door to additional suits by other mining companies.”

The Reuters article quotes Pacific Rim CEO Tom Shrake saying, “We’re pushing forward with the case and this ruling provides us with the green light to move forward.”

In an Institute for Policy Studies media advisory, Cavanagh stated, “This ruling is one more example of international investment rules undermining democracy in the interest of short-term profits for foreign investors.”

Today’s rally ended with the slipping of all the placards through the locked doors of the office tower with messages such as, “Water Yes! Pacific Rim out of El Salvador!”.

For more on Shout Out, please go to http://canadians.org/shoutout. For Council of Canadians blogs on the Pacific Rim case, see http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22pacific+rim%22. The IPS media advisory is at http://www.ips-dc.org/pressroom/world_bank_tribunal_ruling_in_el_salvador_mining_case_undermines_democracy. La Mesa’s response to yesterday’s ruling can be read (in Spanish) at http://esnomineria.blogspot.ca/?m=1.