Social and Environmental ResponsibilitySocial and environmental responsibility is a core value of Pacific Rim Mining Corp. and is treated extremely seriously by the Company and its employees.
Pacific Rim employees represent the Company in an open, honest and respectful manner, and work hard daily to earn the Company's "social license" to operate. As a result, Pacific Rim enjoys a high level of community support for its endeavors and plans. The Company's approach to social responsibility extends beyond the present, to providing long term, sustainable benefits to the communities in which it operates and to sharing its success with local stakeholders. Environmentally, the Company is committed to making the best choices available as it explores for, develops, engineers, constructs and runs its mining operations.
The following section outlines how the Company is addressing a number of common environmental and social concerns.
How will local communities and residents benefit from the El Dorado mine and will the profits be distributed fairly?
The El Dorado mine will provide numerous economic benefits to individuals, local communities and the country as a whole.
The El Dorado operation is expected to employ up to 400 people while under construction and up to 250 direct employees (who will make an average upper middle-class income for the area) while in operation. 4-5 times as many indirect (spin-off) jobs will be created for the local communities. This mine will bring jobs and economic development to one of the poorest regions of the country, an area lacking economic activity. In addition to mining activities, ongoing local and regional exploration activity by the Company would employ an additional 100+ individuals.
El Salvador mining law calls for a 2% royalty on mine revenues: 1% is paid to the federal government and 1% is paid to the local government, benefiting the local communities directly. Pacific Rim's El Dorado operating company will be a significant, if not one of the largest corporate taxpayers in El Salvador.
In addition to the economic benefits a mine at El Dorado is expected to provide, Pacific Rim has undertaken numerous environmental and social initiatives since acquiring El Dorado, including voluntary literacy programs for employees and members of the community, reforestation programs, and other health and education initiatives.
Pacific Rim has set up a non-profit foundation to provide funding for health and education programs. The Company has committed to a minimum annual funding level of 0.5% of El Dorado operating costs. The foundation will provide grants to health and education-based programs that will be recommended by an arms-length community development committee. Pacific Rim will fund the foundation but will not have a direct role in selecting programs for funding.
Will the benefits the mine provides be short-lived? What happens when the mine closes?
Pacific Rim recognizes the need for the El Dorado mine to provide long term, sustainable benefits to the local communities.
Pacific Rim has committed to drilling water wells in local communities to provide clean water for the long-term use of local residents.
The Company is setting up community development committees to investigate economic possibilities that continue beyond the life of the mine, and will be establishing a "legacy fund" to fund future health and education benefits after the mine closes.
Has there been adequate consultation with the local communities and is the Company being transparent?
Pacific Rim has put a good deal of effort into earning the respect and support of the local communities since first acquiring the El Dorado project, and has consistently operated in an open and transparent manner.
While working on the El Dorado Environmental Impact Study ("EIS"), Pacific Rim held a total of 22 formal community meetings, none of which were required by law. A total of 11 meetings were held at the start of the EIS process. During these initial meetings the EIS process and the efforts being made to meet the EIS requirements were described. In these same meetings Pacific Rim solicited the community members' concerns so that they could be addressed in the EIS document. After the EIS was completed in draft form, a total of 11 additional meetings were held to update community members, including how the Company responded to each of the concerns expressed in the initial series of meetings. This level of consultation is not required as part of the EIS process, but was conducted by the Company specifically to be open and transparent about the environmental impact of the proposed El Dorado operation.
In addition to the EIS-related community consultation, Pacific Rim has held dozens of information sessions in the local communities regardless of whether the forum was organized by proponents or opponents to the project.
Pacific Rim provides numerous avenues for local community members to contact the Company, including a dedicated community relations person. Senior personnel in country and onsite are equally available to discuss the project with local citizens, media, government and other organizations. Pacific Rim takes every concern seriously and looks for ways to address or mitigate the issues raised.
Will the El Dorado mine negatively impact local residents and farmers by degrading the quality or quantity of water they rely on?
All of the process water requirements of the El Dorado mine will be met by rainwater. Water will be collected during the rainy season, used and recycled through the tailings impoundment throughout the year. We will not be building or drawing on wells for mine process water, though a small (2-3 liter per second) well will to be drilled for personal water use at the mine site (bathrooms, change-house, gland water for pumps, laboratory use, etc.).
Dewatering activities in the mine (throughout the mine life) will produce substantial amounts of water. This water will be sent to a settling basin in advance of the water treatment facility to remove any sediments and organics that may be present. It will then go through the water treatment plant to remove any heavy metals if present. After being treated to discharge quality that meets international guidelines the water will be discharged to the Rio San Francisco.
Rio San Francisco is a significant source of water for local residents, yet it often runs dry during the December-May dry season. As a result of the El Dorado operation, the Rio San Francisco downstream of the mine will have far better quality water, and 20-30 times the volume, year round, compared to the river upstream of the operation. This is a clear benefit in water quality and quantity to local residents and farmers, not a detriment.
Aside from the discharge of clean water from the mine, there will be no impact whatsoever on water quality outside of the essentially closed mine system. A water treatment plant will be installed at the tailings facility and in the event that it becomes necessary to make planned discharges of solution from the tailings impoundment, no solution will be discharged until it meets end-of-pipe standards for such discharge. Downstream monitoring will occur to ensure compliance with in-stream water quality standards.
Will the land surrounding the mine be negatively impacted?
The El Dorado mine will be an underground operation with very little impact on the surface land. The primary surface components are the tailings impoundment, the processing plant and other buildings (offices, etc.) that will occupy a total surface area of roughly 1 km by 0.5 km. The underground mine infrastructure will not impact surface lands except at the location of the portal and the ventilation shaft.
The tailings impoundment will be rehabilitated (dewatered, covered with topsoil, and seeded) as part of the mine closure plan.
The surface impact of the El Dorado mine is expected to be negligible, and generally benign to positive, not negative.
Will the El Dorado mine's use of cyanide in processing the ore pollute the air, water, and/or soil or even harm people or animals living around the mine site?
Cyanide compounds, including sodium cyanide (the salt primarily used in gold extraction) and cyanide gas (or HCN, which can form from cyanide salts) are toxic, but their properties are well understood and the procedures for safe transport, transfer, and use of cyanide in gold extraction are well documented. Pacific Rim will be adopting or exceeding globally accepted best practices in the use of cyanide.
Pacific Rim intends to be a signatory to the "International Cyanide Management Code for the Manufacture, Transport and Use of Cyanide in the Production of Gold", which is a voluntary industry code formed under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program and the International Council on Metals and the Environment. Gold mining operations that commit to adopt the Code undergo an initial audit by an independent third party auditor and a re-verification audit every three years. Audit results are reported in a Summary Audit Report and made available to stakeholders and the public. Committing to this program provides arms-length, third-party verification that Pacific Rim's use of cyanide meets the highest possible standards for safety.
The El Dorado operation will have at least 4 overlapping systems in place to mitigate the possible risk of a discharge of cyanide into the environment: