Asunción Mita, Jutiapa, Guatemala: I am here as part of an international delegation — representing 22 organizations plus individuals such as myself, from 12 countries – that has come to support El Salvador’s right to stop environmentally-destructive gold mining. Half of the delegation has traveled over the border into Guatemala because the giant Lempa River that supplies most of El Salvador’s fresh water begins in the Guatemala hills where one of Canada’s largest mining firms is trying to mine gold. Environmental destruction from this mine would therefore hurt not only Guatemalans, but also millions of Salvadorans who depend on the river’s water as it winds into the Pacific Ocean a nation away.
Our delegation is the result of an almost decade-long struggle of Salvadorans to protect their communities from the ravages of commercial gold mining. That we are in Guatemala is a reminder that environmental havoc does not respect national boundaries — and that the rights of Salvadorans are interconnected with the rights of Guatemalans.
As gold and other mineral prices skyrocketed over the past decade, Canadian, US and Australian gold-mining firms have sought out veins of gold that were unprofitable when prices were low. Quite attractive is a gold deposit belt, first discovered about a century ago, which traverses the middle of Central America, including El Salvador’s northern provinces and this particular part of Guatemala.