Pacific Rim Mining Corporation
||This article may be unbalanced towards certain viewpoints. (December 2012)|
The Pacific Rim Mining Corporation (TSX: PMU, OTCQX: PFRMF) is a Vancouver, Canada-based multinational mining company that works throughout the Americas. It merged with Dayton Mining Corporation in 2002. Its President and Chief Executive Officer, Thomas Shrake, is a United States citizen and a resident of Nevada. Pacific Rim's principal corporate offices are in Reno, Nevada.
Pacific Rim Mining Corporation describes itself as "a gold exploration company with projects in El Salvador and Nevada, USA. The Company focuses its exploration efforts on epithermal gold deposits in the Americas because of their typically high gold and silver grades, low environmental risk and propensity to occur in veins that can be mined underground. Environmental stewardship and social responsibility are core values of the Company."
As the company's projects are still in development, it had no income in 2009. At the end of 2009 Pacific Rim's total assets were valued at $8.2 million.
Pacific Rim's largest endeavor is the El Dorado project in El Salvador. Over a decade, the company has invested more than $77 million to discover and prepare to begin mining gold deposits in the impoverished department of Cabañas. The enterprise would provide more than 300 local jobs, and inject hundreds of millions of dollars into the country's economy through a revenue-sharing arrangement with the Salvadoran government. The company estimates that it can extract 1.4 million gold-equivalent troy ounces from its El Dorado claims.
Controversy in El Salvador
Pacific Rim Mining became the subject of political controversy in 2008 when Salvadoran President Antonio Saca refused to authorize the company to begin its mining operations. Saca, of the pro-business ARENA party, did not give a reason for his refusal, but corrupt motives were suspected[by whom?], as the company refused to pay bribes. A secret U.S. Embassy cable made public by WikiLeaks revealed that the United States government knew that Saca was using the presidency for corrupt purposes. According to the cable, "many in ARENA believe that the brazen manner in which Saca and his people are widely perceived to have used their positions for personal enrichment went beyond the pale."
Saca's action gave hope to opponents of private mining companies in El Salvador. Environmentalists, expatriate Salvadorans, and local activists connected with the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) political party have campaigned for the project to be discontinued over ideological issues of property rights, and concerns of pollution arising from the extraction of gold and silver. On June 16, 2009, FMLN lawmakers demanded a permanent ban on gold and silver mining in El Salvador, whose requirements meant that "companies involved in mining activities in El Salvador would have 180 days to abort operations and leave the country."  However, that proposal did not become law.
The company states that the mine would be an environmentally responsible operation that would provide hundreds of jobs and economic development to one of the poorest regions of the country. The company notes that dewatering activities in the mine would produce substantial amounts of water, which would be treated to meet international guidelines before being discharged to the Rio San Francisco. The mine was also planned to use runoff water collected on site during the rainy season for use in the mining operation. This water would otherwise have flowed into the Pacific Ocean. The water would be treated after use and the clean water discharged year round. This would actually increase local water supply in the dry season.
Allegations against Pacific Rim
In El Salvador, opponents of Pacific Rim's mining plans at El Dorado have accused the company of environmental recklessness and murders of local critics in 2009. Such allegations have added to the controversy over the mining operation, but there has been no evidence offered to back up the accusers' positions. Salvadoran police found the allegations to be groundless, and WikiLeaks revealed that the U.S. Embassy investigated the matter and found no factual basis to support the allegations. An Embassy political officer interviewed company officials, local authorities, and anti-mining activists. The American diplomat reported in a classified cable that the activists against the company are "closely linked with the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN)."
"These accusations against Pacific Rim contradict the view of the National Anti-Mining Working Group's own attorney, Luis Francisco Lopez, who told PolOff [the U.S. Embassy political officer] in a separate interview that he has 'no evidence' linking Pacific Rim to the crimes," the cable, leaked by WikiLeaks, reported. The political officer approached senior Salvadoran law enforcement officials, the human rights ombudsman, and the Archbishop of San Salvador to investigate the cases thoroughly, and concluded, "there is absolutely no compelling evidence, nor credible motive, linking Pacific Rim to these murders." Even so, the FMLN took out full-page newspaper ads on December 29, 2009, alleging a "campaign of terror" against anti-mining activists.
In June 2009 environmental campaigner Marcelo Rivera Moreno was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in Cabañas after the April murder of a local pro-mining businessman, Horacio Menjivar, with whom Rivera and other activists were in a long-standing dispute. In August, Horacio Menjivar's son, Oscar, was arrested for the attempted murder of another anti-mining activist, Ramiro Rivera Gomez (no relation to Marcelo Rivera Moreno). In October, Esperanza Menjivar, the widow of Horacio and mother of Oscar, was murdered. On December 20, 2009, Ramiro Rivera Gomez was murdered, followed by another anti-mining activist, Dora Alicia Recinos Sorto, on December 26. Dora Sorto was eight months pregnant when she was shot dead, and her two year old son was also wounded in the attack. While some anti-mining activists have suggested these murders are connected to the mining company, the local police and other investigators, including the U.S. Embassy official who authored the cable revealed by WikiLeaks, believe that they are connected to a series of murders (six in total) between two neighborhood groups, with the first murder victim being Horacio Sanchez Menjivar, who supported the mine. Horacio Sanchez Menjivar's son, Oscar, is accused of killing Ramiro Rivera Gomez in revenge for the murder of his father and mother.
The controversy caused Pacific Rim Mining Corp. CEO Thomas Shrake to testify about the case before the Canadian Parliament. In his June, 2010 testimony before Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Shrake stated that the suggestions that the company has been involved in the murder of anti-mining activists to be "simply outrageous" and that this would be "contrary to everything we believe and practice." He noted that there are suspects in jail awaiting trial for the murders, and that there are no known connections between the accused and Pacific Rim, and that "A three-page investigative piece in the local paper concluded that there was no connection."
Shrake also noted that the mine operation and employees have been the victims of attacks, such as a mob organized by an NGO that damaged their property and hacked down trees planted as part of the company's reforestation program. He also noted that the violence, at least some of which is perpetrated by people from outside the region, and failure of the government to issue permits for which they qualify under El Salvadoran law, has led to job losses in Cabañas, which is the poorest department in El Salvador.
In response to President Saca's refusal to allow a mining permit, Pacific Rim Mining Corp. invoked a provision of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in 2009 to place the matter in the hands of an international arbitration court. The company sought $200 million in damages. The administration of President Funes said later in 2009 it would be willing to negotiate with Pacific Rim Mining Corp. concerning its arbitration claims that the Salvadoran government damaged its interests. Funes' chief of cabinet, Alex Segovia, "acknowledged that the merits of the Pacific Rim case were strong."
El Salvador strongly supported CAFTA and its provisions, and, recognizing the corruption of its judicial system, agreed that foreign investors in a dispute with the government could take their case to an international trade court. However, when Pacific Rim invoked the CAFTA international arbitration provision in 2009, seeking $100 million in damages, the Salvadoran government called the action a violation of its national sovereignty. Other gold mining companies with operations in Central America, such as Goldcorp, say they may use the Pacific Rim case to adjudicate disputes of their own.
- Pacific Rim Mining Corp. website "Overview"
- Pacific Rim Mining Corp. 2009 Annual Report
- Pacific Rim Mining Corp. "El Dorado, El Salvador" statement
- United States Embassy San Salvador, "Reorganizing ARENA: The Party's Future After Avila's Defeat." Diplomatic cable classified SECRET, 6 October 2009, WikiLeaks Reference ID 09SANSALVADOR947.
- EL SALVADOR: Gold Mining 'Is a Huge Rip-Off' - Environmentalists
- Anti-mining stir may hit gold biz in El Salvador
- United States Embassy San Salvador, "New Environment Ministry Moves to Ban Mining, Sends 'Anti Development' Signals," diplomatic cable, 7 July 2009, WikiLeaks Reference ID 09SANSALVADOR637 
- [Pacific Rim http://www.pacrim-mining.com/s/ESResponsibility.asp Social and Environmental Responsibility]
- United States Embassy San Salvador, "No Mining Link in Cabañas Murders," classified diplomatic cable CONFIDENTIAL, 8 January 2010, WikiLeaks Reference ID 10SANSALVADOR9 .
- "Salvadoran activists target gold mine". The Straight. January 7 2010. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
- "Pacific Rim Corporation: Anti-Mining Activists Assassinated". Pacific Free Press. January 2 2010. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
- "Escalating violence against anti-mining campaigners". Indymedia. 2010-01-17. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
- Tragedia en Cabañas por pugna entre vecinos
- Un fortín policial para evitar más asesinatos
- Canadian Government Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE), Meeting 22 Evidence
- Randal C. Archibold, "First a Gold Rush, Then the Lawyers," New York Times, 25 June 2011 .
- James Fredrick, "CAFTA Weakens Central America's Hand In Mining Conflicts," World Politics Review, 7 May 2012 .
- http://www.pacrim-mining.com/s/Home.asp Company Website