The government of El Salvador has asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) to help the country push for a halt of Vancouver-based Goldcorp's (TSX: G), (NYSE: GG) Cerro Blanco gold-silver project in southern Guatemala, reports La Información (in Spanish).
The article says El Salvador's human rights defense attorney general (PDDH), Oscar Luna, claims Cerro Blanco mine will greatly endanger the water quality in the Lempa River, which supplies not only to Guatemala but also to Honduras and El Salvador.
Luna has requested the CIDH for a special hearing to discuss the potential threats and asked the commission to “protect the locals” who have come forward, saying the project will affect them. He went on to say Cerro Blanco is a threat to their human rights.
A study commissioned by El Salvador’s Centre for the Investigation of Investments and Commerce (CEICOM) last year found high levels of arsenic, lithium, fluoride and boron in waters around the Cerro Blanco mine.
With no legal protection to potable water and the second highest levels of deforestation in Latin America, El Salvador’s water situation is quite difficult, concludes the study.
“This first evaluation, when gold and silver extraction hasn’t even started, shows us that when extraction begins, the levels of heavy metals will increase, particularly in winter,” said the study’s author, Cidia Cortes, an environmental biologist with CEICOM. “The eventual impact on the Lempa River is imminent.”
The main issue is that El Salvador gets 37% of it drinking water from the cited river.
However, Goldcorp’s subsidiary in Guatemala, Entre Mares, said in a written statement that “as part of sustainable mining, Cerro Blanco’s operations are transparent, responsible and mindful of the environment. Additionally, the project is subject to national laws and international parameters.”
The company also said that in its own auditable environmental assessment of the project, it would apply the highest national and international mining requirements and standards. Furthermore, Goldcorp was the first company in the world to have one of its mines, Marigold, in Nevada, be certified by the International Cyanide Management Code for the Gold Mining Industry. Such certification is given only after the safe handling and storage of cyanide in the mining process has been verified.
Despite being the smallest country in Central America, El Salvador has the third largest economy, with a per capita income that is roughly two-thirds that of Costa Rica and Panama, but more than double that of Nicaragua.
Other than in Canada, Goldcorp has producing mines in the US, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Argentina.
(Image: Painting of the First Independence Movement celebration in El Salvador. Wikimedia Commons.)