El Salvador becomes first country to ban metals mining

Apr 28, 2017 12:24 IST

El Salvador bans metals miningEl Salvador in April 2017 became the first country in the world to ban metal mining. The El Salvador unicameral legislature passed the ban with support from a sweeping coalition. The law was favoured by nearly 80 percent of the El Salvadorian population.

The law bans "prospection, exploration, exploitation, extraction or processing of metallic minerals in El Salvador."

The law entered into force after being signed by President Salvador Sanchez Ceren.

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Background

After the Salvadoran Civil War (15 October 1979 to 16 January 1992), the government began trying to rebuild the large-scale mining industry.

The country received a flurry of exploration permit applications, when global gold prices began to climb in the early 2000s.

The Pacific Rim Mining Corporation proposed plans for a mine named El Dorado to be built in the basin of the Rio Lempa–El Salvador’s primary source of drinking water.  

In the 1990s, rapid industrialization and population growth in the country caused extreme environmental degradation.

By the early 2000s, more than 90% of the country’s ground water was chemically contaminated and no amount of boiling, filtering or chlorination would make it potable.

Later, anti-mining movement began in the country which resisted the El Dorado mine and mining in general. Local and international groups united to form The National Roundtable Against Metal Mining in El Salvador.

In May 2007, the El Salvadorian Catholic Church joined the country’s anti-mining movement. The Catholic Church publicly denounced mining, claiming “no material advantage can be compared to the value of human life.”

In March 2008, NRA President Antonio Saca instituted a nationwide moratorium on metal mining permits.

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