Pacific Rim Mining Corporation
This article may be unbalanced towards certain viewpoints. (December 2012)
The Pacific Rim Mining Corporation 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 announced by 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.
El Dorado mine in El Salvador
The proposed El Dorado mine project is Pacific Rim's largest project. The company gained the mine property, of 144 square kilometres, from its merger with Dayton Mining Corporation in 2002. More than $77 million has been invested to discover and prepare to begin mining gold deposits in Cabañas department. The company estimates that it can extract 1.4 million gold-equivalent troy ounces.
According to US think tank Public Citizen Pacific Rim did not complete a feasibility study required for a mining permit, and in July 2008 ceased exploratory drilling. However, it is claimed that Salvadoran President Antonio Saca refused to authorize the company to begin its mining operations. 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 human rights issues, and concerns of pollution arising from the extraction of gold and silver. In December 2008, twenty four mining project were waiting for new mining laws to be finalized. The draft law proposing "a clear regulatory framework, a monitoring body to enforce the law, and a classification of companies that comply with international standards," was introduced by the National Coalition Party. Environmentalists have warned of negative environmental and social impacts if the mining goes ahead. 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.
Pacific Rim claimed that the mine would be an environmentally responsible, would provide jobs and economic development. The company also claimed that dewatering activities in the mine would produce substantial amounts of water, and that it would collect runoff rain water. However, some organizations and the Salvadorian government have questioned these claims.
Allegations against Pacific Rim
Public Citizen highlighted that three prominent anti-mining activists were murdered in 2008. Some have claimed Pacific Rim is connected to the murders, while other say there is no evidence to support the claims. 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)."[clarification needed]
"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.[clarification needed]
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.[clarification needed] 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 Canadian-based company presented this case even when Canada is not part of the CAFTA agreement. For legal purposes then, the company declared ad hoc a subsidiary in Nevada as the base for the claim, although before they always declared themselves a Canadian mining company. The company sought $200 million in damages on one of the poorest countries on Central America, a total that has since increased to $300 million, the basis for this is the assertion that government "changed the rules of the game" on the company. 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."
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.
2012 - present
In October 2012, Pacific Rim signed a deal with Crowell & Moring to represent their case in the final phase of International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes arbitration.
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