Canadian mining giant Goldcorp last week announced it has suspended its Cerro Blanco gold mine project in Guatemala, citing an unfavorable global financial context for investing in metal mining.
The mine site is located in southeastern Guatemala, near the border with El Salvador. The Ostúa River passes through the site before flowing into Lake Güija in El Salvador, which in turn feeds the Lempa River, a key source of water in that country.
Salvadoran NGO the National Board Against Metal Mining has demanded that the Guatemalan government definitively close the mine, and called on the Salvadoran government to strengthen its position against it.
"Multiple times we have presented Guatemalan and Salvadoran governments with information proving inaccuracies in the technical projections made by the company when they applied for permits for exploration and exploitation," the group said last week. It said the mine is located in an area of geothermal activity with temperatures over 80 degrees Celsius, which would lead to higher costs than projected.
The pollution generated by the mine would violate the constitutions of both countries, as well as international agreements such Treaty for the Execution of the Trifinio Plan signed by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras; the United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity; and the Ramsar Convention on wetlands, especially in regards to the habitats of aquatic birds, it said.
The National Board Against Metal Mining maintains that the suspension of the project is "not just the result of cold commercial calculations, as the company said" but also because of "processes of conflict and resistance from communities that decided to defend their water and territory."
There are 48 other mining projects with cross border issues, and there is thus an urgent need for regional dialogue and agreements on trans-boundry waters and shared watersheds, it warned.
Last January, El Salvador's Attorney General for the Defense of Human Rights solicited a hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States to analyze the potential for heavy metal water contamination due to the mine.