El Salvador has become the first nation in the world to ban the mining of gold and other metals, ending a decades-long fight by activists to protect the country’s limited water resources.
Lawmakers, many with signs reading “No to Mining, Yes to Life” on their desks, voted unanimously on Thursday in favor of the ban, which will end large-scale mining activities in El Salvador immediately. According to Mongabay, no old permits or license applications will be grandfathered in. The federal government will grant small-scale artisanal gold miners a two-year grace period to close their operations, and will provide technical and financial support to help them do so.
Several Latin American countries have begun limiting destructive mining practices in recent years. El Salvador, where toxic chemicals and heavy metals pollute an estimated 90 percent of surface waters, has had a moratorium on mining since 2008, The Guardian reported. Costa Rica, Argentina, and Colombia have implemented partial bans on mining.
But activists said the new total ban is a game-changing victory. It “makes tiny El Salvador the unlikely hero in a global movement to put the brakes on a modern day ‘gold rush’,” MiningWatch Canada wrote in a statement Thursday.