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2006 De facto Moratorium on Mining imposed by successive Salvadoran governments

In 2006, the Salvadoran government, led by the traditionally business-friendly party, Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) imposed a “de facto” moratorium on all mineral-related concessions in El Salvador. While not expressed in any formal document or policy, the moratorium was implicit in the fact that the government never granted Pacific Rim Mining Corporation an exploitation concession or, for that matter, any further exploration concessions to other companies. The de facto moratorium was confirmed by President Elías Antonio Saca (ARENA) in 2008 (IISD, 2017; Broad, 2015). Notably, this public confirmation was made in the run-up to the 2009 presidential election, which was won by the traditionally left-wing political party, Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). FMLN also endorsed the de facto moratorium during the electoral campaign (Montoya, 2021). In response to not receiving exploitation concessions for the El Dorado project, Pacific Rim started an international investment arbitration in 2009 against El Salvador for alleged damages of US$314 milion (IISD, 2017) (See Legal Action entitled, “2006-2016 Pacific Rim International Investment Arbitration against El Salvador” for more information). 

In 2012, the FMLN drafted its own legislation proposal [the second] based on a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the mining sector that the government had commissioned from the Spanish firm TAU Consultores. This firm’s assessment underlined the risks of mining in El Salvador under the current legal, institutional, environmental and social conditions and indicated that a ban on mining seemed a prudent step, at least until these conditions were reversed. The FMLN’s proposal, entitled the Special Law for the Suspension of Mining-Related Administrative Procedures, was intended to consolidate the moratorium on mining concessions indefinitely. However, the proposal was never discussed by the Legislative Assembly and met with strong opposition from the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador (Mesa Nacional), which felt that it left open the possibility of mining in the future under a government less concerned about the impacts of extraction. This 2012 proposed law was a step back from a legislative proposal to ban metallic mining outright, which had been prepared in 2010 by the Mesa Nacional in collaboration with FMLN allies (Spalding, 2014). At the time, the leader of the FMLN party and President of El Salvador committed to signing the legislative ban if it was approved in the Legislative Assembly (Ibid.; See also the Legal Action entitled “2006-2017 Mesa Nacional Drafts and Proposes initial Legislative Bans on Metallic Mining” for more information on the popular law drafting initiatives). 

Before 2013, further efforts at legislative reform were again made by the National Conciliation Party (PCN), a conservative and pro-business party (Nadelman, 2015). Its proposed reforms were aimed at restoring mining in El Salvador. Both the PCN’s and FMLN’s legislative reform attempts were met with opposition from the other parties and from opponents of mining who were adamant in their pursuit of a mining ban (Montoya, 2021). 

Type of Action / Tipo de Acción:
Executive Orders and Actions
Extractive Project / Proyecto extractivo:
Region / Región:
Central America
Country / País:
El Salvador
Natural Resource / Recurso natural:
Gold, Silver
Jurisdiction / Jurisdicción:
Salvadoran System
Category of Key Actors in Legal Action / Categoría de actores claves en la Acción Legal:
Politicians and/or Political Parties, State Institutions
Human Rights Violated/Claimed:
Right to a healthy environment
Key Legal Actors Involved / Actores jurídicos clave involucrados:
National Republic Alliance (ARENA), Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), Public Health and Environment Commission of the Legislative Assembly
References / Referencias:

Ainhoa Montoya, “Citizens as Lawmakers: The Juridification of Conflicts over Metallic Mining in El Salvador” (Work in Progress).

Ainhoa Montoya, “On Care for Our Common Home: Ecological Materiality and Sovereignty over the Lempa Transboundary Watershed”. Journal of Latin American Studies, 53(2), 297-322, dated 29 March 2021, online:, accessed 23 November 2021.

ES No Minería, “Responsabilidad Legislativa”, dated 21 April 2010, online:, accessed 18 April 2018.

International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), “Pac Rim v. El Salvador: all claims dismissed; OceanaGold to pay US$8 million in costs”, dated 13 March 2017, online:, accessed 11 October 2018.

Spalding, Rose, “After CAFTA: Anti-Mining Movements, Investment Disputes, and New Organizational Territory”. In “Contesting Trade in Central America: Market Reforms and Resistance” (Austin: University of Texas Press), dated 2014.

Nadelman, Rachel, “‘Let us Care for Everyone’s Home’: The Catholic Church’s Role in Keeping Golding Mining out of El Salvador”, CLALS Working Paper Series (No. 9), Centre for Latin American and Latino Studies (American University: Washington D.C.), dated December 2015.