Opposing a Guatemalan gold mine threatening El Salvador's water
In 2017, El Salvador's Legislative Assembly passed a law banning metallic mining throughout the country. Today, there is a new mining threat, because an open pit gold mine being developed just on the other side of the border in Guatemala could have a profoundly negative environmental impact on El Salvador's largest watershed, the Lempa River.
The planned mine in question is the Cerro Blanco mine, owned by the Canadian gold mining company Bluestone Resources. The mine is located in southeastern Guatemala near Lake Guija.
The lake's waters flow into the Lempa River, El Salvador's most important river, which supplies people throughout the country.
Cerro Blanco could seriously and aggressively contaminate the waters of our main source of drinking water supply, which is the Lempa River basin, which runs through almost all of El Salvador. But we are not water self-sufficient, because these waters are generated in our neighboring countries of Honduras and Guatemala. The river serves to supply water to more than a million and a half people and to the rest of the communities that are along the banks of the Lempa River, and so it is a great concern.
The vast majority of participating voters rejected metallic mining projects in the referendum held on September 18 in Asunción Mita. Residents are concerned about the impacts a Canadian-owned gold mining project would have on local water sources and a major river downstream in nearby El Salvador. Following the vote, however, the mining company, Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines and industry groups have all contested the legality of the referendum.Casting their ballots at the same six polling stations used in general elections, 87.98% of participating registered voters in Asunción Mita rejected mining.
"The people voted,the mine was screwed! Yes,it was possible! Live life,not the mine!" sings the people of Asunción Mita in #Guatemala, after the results of the Consultation of this sunday,in which the NO to metal mining won. Nearly 90% of the 8500 voters reject mining @acafremin https://t.co/OuyRVUyggz— TerraJusta (@TerraJusta) September 19, 2022
Asunción Mita residents have been organizing against mining for well over a decade and the Catholic church in the region has played a pivotal role. The pandemic slowed everything down for a while, but people sprang into action when they learned the company was trying to move forward with open-pit mining, according to María del Carmen Cifuentes, who founded a local school decades ago and is heavily involved in church activities.
This referendum is clearly unconstitutional and filled with irregularities. We are disappointed with the actions of these groups who use these biased referendums to create doubt and uncertainty around responsible mining projects such as Cerro Blanco. Our goal is to continue to develop Cerro Blanco and provide socioeconomic benefits that transform communities through employment and economic opportunity, while operating in an environmentally safe and socially responsible manner.
We recognize the courage of the Mitec people to make this consultation possible and we recognize the legitimate will of the people, because although Guatemalan government authorities say that it is not valid, it is.