El Salvador has become the first country in the world to ban all metals mining. The Legislative Assembly voted to approve legislation first proposed nearly ten years ago, which puts the brakes on the modern-day ‘gold rush’ responsible for polluting El Salvador’s countryside. The country has the second-worst deforestation in the hemisphere and 96% of its surface water is contaminated.
El Salvador has faced considerable pressure from multi-national mining companies. One embarked on a $250 million lawsuit against the country, demanding it be issued with a mining permit. It cost the government $13m to fight the case. It won and the company was ordered to pay compensation, but so far hasn’t offered a cent.
The mining ban is a tribute to a widely-supported protest movement - and especially to El Salvador’s environmental activists, four of whom were killed as a result of their activity.