This is outrageous.  - DG

1st CAFTA Environmental Attack: Mining Multinational v. Democracy

This week in Washington, D.C., in a closed World Bank hearing, a multinational mining corporation is arguing the first CAFTA environmental attack case. Using the controversial CAFTA investor rights rules that allow private firms to directly sue governments for policies they claim undermine their expected future profit, Pacific Rim Mining Corp is demanding hundreds of millions of dollars from El Salvador.

That's right. Because of CAFTA's extreme guarantees on foreign investor rights, this Canadian mining multinational can demand massive compensation from this small impoverished country. President Obama can help end this nightmare by fulfilling his pledge to purge extreme investor rights from U.S. trade policy and future trade pacts like the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), Obama's first prospective trade deal, which will be negotiated in San Francisco later this month.

Pacific Rim Mining Corp sought to open a large gold mine in the basin of El Salvador's largest river. The mine would use enormous amounts of water and tons of cyanide to process the ore. Public concerns about serious health, water and environmental issues arose after the first environmental study came out. Business press reports note that Pacific Rim halted its application for a final operating permit and ceased exploratory drilling in 2008. Meanwhile, in a triumph of democracy after decades of civil war, Salvadoran public concern translated into bipartisan political action. Both the conservative and then left-leaning governments undertook a national review of mining policy.

But instead of continuing with the permitting process, Pacific Rim turned to CAFTA. It reincorporated a Cayman Islands subsidiary in Nevada, and used this new U.S. corporate entity to file a CAFTA case in December 2008. Pacific Rim is using CAFTA's controversial "investor -state" dispute resolution mechanism, which gives corporations the right to directly sue sovereign governments over environmental and other public interest policies they feel could undermine anticipated future profits. As a result, a World Bank tribunal is now empowered to decide whether Pacific Rim's expectation of profit trumps the right of the Salvadoran people to clean water, a sound environment and their democratic rights to determine what is in their national interest.

That's why we need to take action to purge the "Investor-State" clause and other excessive investor rights once and for all!

No corporate interest should be allowed to overrule the democratic will of the people. But NAFTA and CAFTA allow for just that, by radically tipping the scales in favor of transnational corporations. That's why it's crucial that as the Obama administration continues negotiations on the eight-country TPP, its first prospective trade agreement, negotiators hear loud and clear that including an "Investor-State" clause would be egregious and unacceptable.

Countless lives and livelihoods depend on the ability of the Salvadoran government and people to ensure that firms operating in their country abide by their laws. When it comes to cyanide gold mining, the matter is life and death. In a poor country, people cannot buy safe drinking water if local rivers and wells become contaminated.

Already, Salvadorans are losing their lives over this struggle. Just in the past year, three anti-mining activists were murdered near the proposed mine and others wounded. And now another mining firm, Commerce Group, has also filed a case under CAFTA demanding payment from El Salvador.

With the price of gold soaring, the Salvadoran government is under constant and increasing pressure from corporate mining interests to grant as many as 28 new mine permits, regardless of the environmental and public health impact. Extreme investor rights in trade deals like CAFTA crush people's abilities to set policies that will most affect their lives.

Imagine if a foreign firm demanded hundreds of millions in U.S. taxpayer compensation simply because it was being required to meet U.S laws that preserve the environment, protect public health and promote human rights! Under CAFTA, it could be our turn next. Tribunals have ordered more than $200 million in payments to investors under similar terms that appear in NAFTA. That's why these outrageous foreign investor rights have got to go!

Sign our petition to the Obama administration demanding that any future trade deals promote human rights and the environment - not new rights for transnational corporations!

Thanks for all you do,

James Ploeser - Senior Organizer
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

Tags: CAFTA, NAFTA, corporations, democracy, environmentalism, gold, human rights, minerals, mining

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