June 21, 2010
On May 31 and June 1, 2010, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), for the first time, webcast its hearing in real-time to the public in the Pac Rim Cayman LLC v. Republic of El Salvador case (ICSID Case No. ARB/09/12). ICSID based its decision on Article 10.21.2 of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which requires hearings to be open to the public.
ICSID’s decision is a major step towards transparency in investor-State arbitrations, as it meant that the public around the world had the opportunity to access the hearings. This allowed citizens in El Salvador the opportunity to be informed of issues of important public interest, in this particular case of the efforts to halt harmful metals mining in their country not only in the outcome of the arbitration, but also in the arguments to be exchanged during the process. To access ICSID’s webcast, which will be accessible in both English and Spanish, please visit the ICSID website.
The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) has long advocated for more transparent mechanisms for dispute settlement generally, including webcasting international dispute settlement proceedings. CIEL’s brief, Webcasting as a Tool to Increase Transparency in Dispute Settlement Proceedings, examines domestic and international judicial bodies that webcast their
hearings, assesses the reasons, benefits and concerns associated with webcasting proceedings, and analyzes the efforts and possible future increases in webcasting international dispute settlement.
CIEL supports Community Efforts to Halt Harmful Mining Projects in El Salvador
The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) is assisting the Mesa Nacional frente a la Minería Metálica (Mesa) in El Salvador, in its efforts to halt harmful metals mining in El Salvador. In particular, CIEL is providing legal support to the Mesa in regards to potential intervention as amicus curiae in the investment arbitrations concerning mining permits in El Salvador. Further, CIEL is supporting the Mesa’s struggle for accountability in the murders of environmental defenders Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera and Dora Alicia Recinos (who was eight months pregnant), who had organized a local environmental and development committee and had opposed mining in the province of Cabañas.
The Mesa is a network of community and non-governmental organizations that has been at the forefront of a national campaign to ban metals mining in El Salvador. The Mesa contends that the population and physical characteristics of El Salvador are such that metals mining carries unacceptable deleterious consequences for people’s health and the environment. The Mesa has organized national and local public education campaigns regarding the harmful effects of mining in El Salvador.
In response to the Mesa‘s advocacy campaign, the government of El Salvador has taken two important measures. First, it is conducting a strategic environmental assessment of mining in the country. Second, it has refused to grant mining exploitation permits while this study is underway.
As a result of the government’s refusal to issue mining exploitation permit, a Canadian mining company, Pacific Rim Corp, through its U.S. subsidiary, Pac Rim Cayman LLC, has filed claims against El Salvador under the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). Whereas the investor claims that the government has frustrated its expectations that it would be given an exploitation permit after investing in mining exploration, the Government argues that Pac Rim’s claims are frivolous since the investor does not meet the legal requirements established in the mining law of El Salvador to be awarded a mining exploitation permit.
CIEL is supporting the Mesa empowerment in El Salvador, in order to strengthen civil society’s ability to participate in meaningful debates over sustainability in a country that is working to strengthen its democracy after years of civil war. On April 13, CIEL facilitated a workshop for civil society in San Salvador on investment arbitration and the potential use of amicus curiae briefs — a legal document that allows civil society groups, such as the Mesa, to present arguments to investment arbitral tribunals.
On April 14 CIEL spoke at a conference “Empresas Mineras en Mesoamérica: ¿Desarrollo Sostenible o Amenaza a la Soberanía?”
(Mining corporations in Mesoamérica: Sustainable Development or a Threat to Sovereignty?). Presentations are available here: http://www.unes.org.sv/Mineria.HTM.
The conference received significant coverage by the written, radio and TV press in El Salvador. Some examples of the press coverage:
For further resources about the Pac Rim case, please see:
- Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) (http://www.cispes.org/)
- Democracy Center (www.democracyctr.org)
- Institute for Policy Studies (http://www.ips-dc.org/)
- Mining Watch (www.miningwatch.ca)
- Oxfam America (http://www.oxfamamerica.org)
- Public Citizen (http://www.citizen.org)
- Voices from El Salvador (http://voiceselsalvador.wordpress.com/)