Imagine an anti-mining activist disappearing in Nevada. I’ve seen plenty of Law and Order episodes to know that the family will wait 48 hours and then file a missing persons report. Eventually a detective will ask a close relative if the missing activist had any enemies. At the end of the episode you will see a bad guy – maybe a mining executive, maybe not – being sent off to jail.
Real life, however, isn’t television.
Imagine instead an anti-mining activist disappearing in Central America. It isn’t hard to imagine because that’s been happening for years. In 2010, Dora “Alicia” Sorto Recinos and Ramiro Rivera Gómez, two anti-mining activists from El Salvador both disappeared and were later found dead. The one thing they had in common is that they were actively working to expose Nevada-based PAC Rim Cayman, an international mining corporation, for its unfair labor practices and environmental violations.
More recently, Exaltacion Marcos Ucelo, an anti-mining activist from Guatemala, disappeared last April and was later found dead. His death came after he voted against Nevada-based Tahoe Resources’s gold and silver mining interests during a community meeting. As of today no formal charges have been brought up against these companies, but there is a pattern of activist speaking out against mining and then ending up dead or missing.
Here in Nevada we have our own problems with mining. Our issue is that mining does not pay a reasonable tax rate to support things such as roads and schools. When elected officials try to seriously discuss revenue from mining, the industry sends an army of lobbyists to Carson City to put a stop to that conversation. When mining’s profits are being hindered in cash strapped Latin American countries, mining doesn’t send lobbyists, they send high priced corporate lawyers and sue these governments in international courts. Just like PAC Rim LLC did last month to the government of El Salvador, after that country did not renew its permits. No matter what the outcome is in the courts, mining will continue with business as usual.
Bottom line, don’t mess with mining. The industry will do whatever it takes to protect its profits. If you’re in the United States, you’ll end up in a war with lobbyists and lawyers. If you’re in the developing world, the result can be even more serious.