On March 29, El Salvador made a little bit of history. The tiny Central American country passed a law banning all exploration, mining and processing of metals. Without exception. It is the first nation to do so.
The decision, which enjoys broad popular support, is all the more remarkable given the parlous state of the country’s economy. But in a public debate that pitted water supplies against economics, water won.
The decision will not affect any metals supply chain. There are no major mines in the country, although one was planned. El Salvador has specific issues with water. Its Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources estimates that 90 percent of surface water is contaminated.
However, it is symptomatic of the environmental pressures that are building across the developing world and increasingly impacting industrial metals. This is the flip side of the green revolution, which holds so much demand promise for industrial stalwarts such as copper and which has propelled new materials such as lithium and cobalt into the public spotlight.
WATER VS MINING
The vote in El Salvador follows a protracted battle with a Canadian junior, Pacific Rim Mining, over its proposed El Dorado gold and silver mine. The project was bitterly resisted by locals and environmental activists because of its impact on water supplies.
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