El Salvador has become the first country in the world to ban metal mining. The ban says no to underground, above-ground or artisanal mining for metals.
The Guardian reports, "Lawmakers in the water-parched country passed the ban in a unanimous vote on Wednesday [March 29], declaring El Salvador a mining-free territory. The decision followed a long and bitter struggle to protect the Central American country’s diminishing water sources from polluting mining projects."
RT adds, "The new law, supported by 70 lawmakers, bans all exploration, extraction, and processing of metals both in open pits and mines [and] passed despite interest from international gold and silver mining companies. [The law has broad support given the] level of environmental pollution in El Salvador is one of the highest in the region, second only to Haiti, and the availability of drinking water is the lowest, according to UN data."
And Mining.com notes, "Legislators across the political spectrum supported the measure [that bans all mining for gold and other metals, but] which does not apply to quarrying or the mining of coal, salt and other non-metallic resources [such as sand and stone]. The law also bans the use of cyanide and mercury for mining."
The legislation now goes to President Salvador Sánchez Cerén (a former FMLN rebel commander) who has already stated that he will sign it.
The New York Times highlights, "The vote in the Legislative Assembly turned a decade-old moratorium on mining into law, halting efforts by international companies to tap the gold belt running across the northern provinces of El Salvador."
In June 2013, Blue Planet Project director Meera Karunananthan wrote, "With 90 per cent of its surface water heavily contaminated and a quarter of its rural population lacking access to safe drinking water, El Salvador is embroiled in a clean water crisis. If El Salvador overcomes the odds and becomes the first country in the world to ban metal mining, it could serve as a model for a world grappling with the threat of an imminent water crisis."
Following the vote, Karunananthan commented, "This is a great victory for friends in El Salvador whose hard work led to this historic vote!"