HomeNewsBriefHow El Salvador's Metal Mining Ban Could Benefit Organized Crime
BRIEF

How El Salvador's Metal Mining Ban Could Benefit Organized Crime

EL SALVADOR / 14 AUG 2017 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

El Salvador made history earlier this year when it became the first country in the world to outlaw all metal mining. But as the ban begins to take effect, experts are warning that organized crime groups may seek to move in on this newly illegal industry.

El Salvador's Legislative Assembly approved the law prohibiting metal mining on March 27. The law prevents the government from issuing new mining concessions, and it requires all active metal mining to cease -- with an exception for small-scale "artisanal" miners, who have been given two years to wind down their operations.

The ban on mining came as a response to the extreme environmental degradation that the industry has brought to El Salvador. The use of dangerous chemicals has been linked to pollution of the country's water supply, which is in an already-percarious state due to heavy deforestation.

Nearly 80 percent of Salvadorans supported the metal mining ban, according to a study conducted by the Central American University (Universidad Centroamericana - UCA).

InSight Crime Analysis

El Salvador's mining ban appears to be a well-intentioned effort to deal with the very real environmental consequences of mining in the country. However, authorities should be wary of the possibility that criminal groups could take on a greater role in what will soon be a completely illegal industry.

El Salvador's artisanal miners will likely be the most susceptible to criminal encroachment on their business, said Marcello Veiga, an expert on artisanal mining who formerly worked with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. Veiga told InSight Crime that the risk of criminalization will increase when the two-year transition period for artisanal miners ends.

"The ban will likely force previously legal artisanal miners to work with organized crime groups," he said.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

Veiga's comments were echoed by Cristina Villegas, a program manager at the development organization Pact who has worked extensively in Latin America. Villegas told InSight Crime that she has seen similar bans fail in other parts of the region, including Ecuador, because governments have failed to provide viable alternatives to artisanal miners being forced to find new ways of making a living.

"Unless the government has a plan with specific industries to transition people into, it will fail because where can they go? In Ecuador, for example, when the mining ban took place, people would tell me they had a choice between illegal mining and illegal logging," Villegas said, referring to Ecuadorean authorities' attempts to outlaw artisanal mining operations.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Mining 

Changes in mining regulations have also increased criminality in other mining sectors throughout Central America. In Costa Rica, for example, after changes to mining regulations in 2011, reports suggest that illegal gold mining and the associated trafficking of mercury are on the rise. In May of this year, 25 illegal extraction points were identified along Costa Rica's border with Nicaragua.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 2 APR 2012

Prosecutors in El Salvador ordered the arrest of eight soldiers and one civilian linked to an arms trafficking network that…

ELITES AND CRIME / 7 SEP 2017

In our September 7 Facebook Live session, Co-director Steven Dudley and Senior Editor Mike LaSusa spoke about the ongoing conflict…

CRIMINAL MIGRATION / 21 JUL 2020

Last week, with great fanfare, the US government for the first time levied terrorism charges against a little known MS13…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…