Gold v. water

Sovereignty at stake in El Salvador

A delegation of El Salvadoreans stand together against mining efforts in the Arcatao community. Featured is a mural that reads: “Say no to mining, say yes to life.”
A delegation of El Salvadorans stand together against mining efforts in the Arcatao community. Featured is a mural that reads: “Say no to mining, say yes to life.” Photo courtesy of Amanda Gryzb

This past October, the NGO US-El Salvador Sister Cities visited FSU’s campus to discuss the serious issues of water pollution, human rights and current trade policies that are affecting El Salvador. The importance of these discussions is massive because these issues not only affect El Salvador, but the human population as a whole. Water is one of human’s most basic needs for survival. Clean, accessible water allows communities to flourish and succeed. Unfortunately not everyone can turn on their kitchen faucet and drink the water that flows from them as many of us in the U.S. can.

El Salvador has some of the most limited clean water sources in the world. A study completed by the United Nations Development Program in 2010 found that El Salvador placed as the third highest country in Latin America to have unequal access to water. Another study took samples from 55 Salvadoran rivers and the results indicated that 90 percent of the samples were unsafe for human consumption, regardless of the water being treated through boiling, chlorinating or filtering, and some estimates are as high as 98 percent. This is a major problem, not only for El Salvador, but increasingly for the whole world.

The issue of water is closer to our backyard than some might think. Recently, in Colorado more than three million gallons of waste water from a closed gold mine was unintentionally released into the Animas River, which caused it to turn yellow while also releasing arsenic, asbestos and cyanide, among other harmful materials which produce airborne toxins. These toxic materials can cause health issues for many years to come according to toxicologists on site. Although this river in Colorado is now heavily polluted, the United States will continue to have water. But El Salvador would not be so lucky. El Salvador is now trying to prevent these accidents from happening to the biggest watershed in their country.

International mining companies have seen the potential profit that has remained hidden underneath the mountains of El Salvador. The greed and power of these companies has impacted not only El Salvador’s overall health, but financial security as well. One of the major mining companies, Oceana Gold (formerly “Pacific Rim”) has filed a lawsuit against El Salvador for over $300 million for their refusal to allow the mining of their minerals. El Salvador is coming to a crucial crossroads in the beginning of November.

Salvadorans will have the ability to have their voices heard regarding the mining of gold in their country. A delegation of people from all over the world, including one of our own from Ferris State University, has been invited to provide solidarity and accompaniment to the Salvadoran people during this pivotal time.

The international delegation will be heading to a former mining site as well as the proposed site that is in the center of the current lawsuit against El Salvador. The delegation will also be providing electoral observation to verify if it is fair and free and to provide witness in any potential cases of injustice, fraud, intimidation or any other illegal tactics in regard to the voting process to guarantee that the Salvadoran voices will be heard loud and clear.

For more information on El Salvador’s fight for clean water or to find ways you can help, head to