On Monday, the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) heard the latest in yet another CAFTA-investment mining case against El Salvador. This time, Milwaukee-based Commerce Group Corporation is trying to squeeze at least $100 million out of El Salvador's taxpayers. The mining firm brought the case after its environmental permits for its gold mining and milling operations in Northeastern El Salvador were revoked after the company failed its environmental audit. At stake is whether investors will be able to undermine El Salvador's environmental policies using the controversial investor rights of the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
The backdrop for this case is rising concerns in El Salvador about the impact of mining. Leaders of El Salvador’s major political parties, the Catholic Church and a large civil society network have increasingly expressed concerns about mining companies’ operations over past years. At the same time, intimidation and threats against civic groups raising concerns about mining issues have escalated. In the past year and a half, three prominent anti-mining activists were murdered.
Check out Public Citizen's backgrounder on the Commerce Group case for more details.