The miners come to southwest Chalatenango

From one of my readers, a report given by a resident of El Salvador, living in southwestern Chalatenango in the municipality of La Nueva Concepcion. The information has been translated. Names are omitted for the protection of the individuals.

23 August 2006

In rural El Salvador, life is simple. Time goes by slowly. Each day resembles the next. This environment provides a sense of safety for the residents. This sense of safety is being compromised by the unsettling changes Pacific Rim stands to bring to several villages in southwestern Chalatenango, in northern El Salvador, if a mining project develops.

Little is known of the southwest corner of Chalatenango, near the Rio Lempa, the largest and most important river in El Salvador. The area is unknown in the travel books, and it is hardly ever mentioned in the newspapers. In fact, this area of Chalatenango has been asleep for quite a while. Nothing big has happened here since the war.

Ask anyone here what the government has planned for them, and they will reply that nothing is coming their way. They consider themselves "“forgotten," or unknown by the country at large. But nothing could be further from the truth in the global sense.

When news began appearing about the nation's interest in mining, no one thought it would affect southwestern Chalatenango. When Zamora, a small rural village in the municipality of La Nueva Concepcion was mentioned in the nation's newspapers as a potential site for a mine, the villagers remained ignorant of such a development.

But a few people outside the community caught the news and decided to share it with Zamora and its surrounding villages. When the news was first delivered, people responded with incredulity. But as more information was given, and as people began sharing stories with each other of strange occurrences, their collective consciousness began to awaken.

"The mine may come, or it may not come; but we'’ll be ready in case it does,"” says a male resident of Pañanalapa, which is about a 20 minutes walk from Zamora.

Residents were left with the information to lay fallow in their minds. Many continued to think the mining project was a farce, or at the very least forgotten. That was the hope.

For almost three months since the potential project was brought to light, all remained quiet, as is normal in that corner of El Salvador, and that was good. "“I don'’t like to worry. The mine project worries me," says a local mother of three.

A conversation this morning:

  • "“So what happened with the mining project? I haven't heard anything more."
  • "“The newspaper printed two articles one week apart. The first said the government was closing its doors to mining projects; the second said mines were good for El Salvador."”
  • "The government does that to confuse people. At least our people have been informed."”

In these parts, one can't always count on people acting according to the information they have. Information can be forgotten, ignored, or treated as a joke.

A conversation this afternoon:

  • "Have you heard any more about the mining project?"”
  • "“No, it'’s been really quiet."”
  • "They came yesterday. They were looking for the people responsible for alerting the residents about their presence. They have gone to the different villages but haven'’t been able to get anywhere with the people. They are angry because everyone keeps telling them to get off their land. They went to chat with two of my neighbors."

One neighbor conveyed his experience with Pacific Rim:

  • "“I wasn'’t expecting them; they caught me by surprise. They seemed worried that they wouldn't be able to proceed with their project. They wanted to know what foreign entities there were present here. They were convinced that foreigners were 'spreading lies' about them and the effects of mining. I told them that the unity seen among the villages came from amongst us, not from an external influence. They tried to convince me that mining was good; that it would greatly benefit the people, and that no adverse effects would be seen in the environment. They wanted me to call a meeting for them so that they could explain all the good they come to bring. I told them I couldn't do that, so they told me they would be here the entire week working to convoke a large community meeting. They won't get anywhere. We are united in our interest to protect our families and our homes. It's a good thing they came looking for me, otherwise I would have never known who they are or that they were even here."

It is uncertain how long Pacific Rim, a Canadian mining company, has been working in the area. They have been here at least a year, maybe more. But until the last few months, they had remained undetected by these sleepy villages. The people in southwestern Chalatenango have learned that it'’s best to sleep with one eye open if they wish to retain their small piece of Salvadoran paradise, which they depend on for their livelihoods.

"This is the only home we have. We can't allow it to be taken away from us." This has been the common sentiment in the communities.


El-Visitador said…
"Names omitted for the protection of individuals"?

What, the big bad Canuck miners are going to start kidnapping people?

C'mon on! Are we on tin-hat mode today? Since when does a Salvadorean need to be afraid of speaking his or her mind?
Anonymous said…
"Since when does a Salvadorean need to be afraid of speaking his or her mind"

Hey visitador, let me answer your question....

NOW MORE THAN EVER, especially if they are going to say something against people of power and/or financial interests tied, connected or in the interest of ARENA.

You know, your friends... the death squads.
Anonymous said…
I like this post, because if that is true, that people is organized by its own, not influenced by external organizations, it's wonderful.
('Don't mess with salvadoreans' way).
If they like its life style, it's ok. No problem.

Regarding to the anonymity of the note, I think any threatens could happen here, or in the United States, or in China.
Money is the cause of all evils
Hodad said…
everyone needs to write this comapny as I have done and tell them it is in their best interests to leave El Salvador NOW!
the Rio Lempa eventually goes to the ocean,this affects fishing and ALL spawning species
the big bad Canuck miners should be aware of the past in El Salvador
they are few, the people are many
this topic is definitely a HOT one
Anonymous said…
Give me a break!!! everybody now is raiseeing the "enviromental flag" without knowing shit about mining business. You people will never know if you dont give yourself the chance to find it out!
Why dont you care about the tens of dead people every year because of pesticide spraying? Hundreds of deads because of the MARAS?
But sure you're happy with your gold jewelry, your cars made by steel and aluminum, that demands MINES, or what were you thinking? Stop spreading a catastrophic message about women being sterile, or two heads cows, that is more scince fiction than reallity...
Hodad said…
seems I have received some threat from this Tom Shrake of Pacific mining as i wrote them and said leave El Salvador
this mine will use cyanide in large quantities.
El Salvador is a small country and mining of this type
needs to be stopped
all their lies and buullshit on their website does not tell the truth, as i have said in other posts, look at what this is doing to Java, Brazil, Borneo, and other spots on this planet
it poisons the water for many, many years and deinitely will affect water quality downstream
seems now i will be a target for their death squads because i only want to protect the future of fishing in El Salvador,

and lamomia you obviously do not know squat!maras, etc. give me a break, they only whack themselves
you need to study the effects of cyanide poisining, not a happy death and it is accumulative

gold mining is bad juju for the water systems when water is a precious resource for ALL
and it seems those in the area, will not let this mine happen,
that I am sure of
Anonymous said…
Of course, you punk lamomia. Corporate mining do not give a damn to whatever conatmination they bring to other nations, because hey those nations have weak governments that do anything for the money, and they aren't "their" people (Canadians) to later sue them and hold them accountable for pollution, malformations, environmental disasters.

Damn Canadians, I actually thought they were more humane than their southern neighbors, but I guess I was wrong. Nation Rapists.
Anonymous said…
With regards to damn Canadians. Please do not paint all Canadians with the same brush. It would be the same as saying damn Salvadorean because of the actions of the oligarchy. There are no nations, just classes. If we accept the idea that we are seperate because we live in another "country", we have fallen into the trap set by the oligarchies of the world. They do not have national concerns when it comes to having more money. They will destroy what ever they have to destroy no matter where, to have more and ensure the poor have less. Strip mining is big business in North America too.
Anonymous said…
Pacific Rim could be what we need here. Many people can't earn a living the way others do. Gold mining has come a long way as far as protecting our environment go.