Report shows mining companies use ISDS to undermine indigenous rights and environment in Latin America

8 May, 2019: A new report by the Institute for Policy Studies, MiningWatch Canada, and the Center for International Environmental Law examines all 38 known Investor-State Disputes that have been brought by mining companies against governments in Latin America. The companies are using special rights in trade and investment agreements to sue governments in international tribunals for billions of dollars in compensation for court decisions, laws and public policies that they claim reduce the value of their investments. Many of these laws and policies protect indigenous land rights, health or the environment.

The report found that Colombia currently faces over US$18 billion dollars in threatened or pending suits, especially related to protecting Indigenous territory and fragile ecosystems, which provide water to over a million people. Mexico and Uruguay face claims of over US$3 billion each for restricting mining to protect the environment. Guatemala and Ecuador have been threatened with tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in suits related to gold and silver projects that communities oppose because they threaten water, health, and livelihoods.

“When mining companies use ISDS, they challenge not only state sovereignty, but also the few hard-won laws and decisions that allow communities to defend their homes, livelihoods, and human rights. This report reveals why ISDS use should be eliminated,” said Carla García Zendejas from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).

“Communities can learn from the success that the people of El Salvador had when Pacific Rim Mining sued after failing to obtain an environmental permit for a gold project. The local, national and international organizing that took place over the seven years of the arbitration, with a solid legal defence, not only won the case, but cleared the way for Salvadorans to ban all metallic mining country-wide in March 2017,” said report co-author Manuel Pérez-Rocha of the Institute for Policy Studies.