Outlawing metal mining in El Salvador - Policy Brief 18


This Policy Brief from TTP Associate Clare Cummings describes how a community-led campaign for ‘water over gold’ succeeded in banning metal mining in El Salvador.

In 2017, El Salvador passed a law that banned metal mining. In other countries in the region, mining continues to damage livelihoods and pollute water sources; in El Salvador, a community-led campaign for ‘water over gold’ succeeded.

This case study demonstrates how coalitions can bridge identity groups, how a problem can be framed to fit with popular political movements and how cultural identities can help mobilise people around environmental protection.

The following lessons from the anti-mining campaign’s success can inform politically aware programmes:

  • Analyse the interests of the political elite, business leaders, rural communities and religious leaders. Understand their cultural identity, ideas and moral values.
  • Build coalitions. Broaden support for your campaign to increase political pressure.
  • Leverage international support.
  • Frame your campaign within popular narratives and cultural values. Can key stakeholders be persuaded to see environmental protection differently?
  • Lock it into law. Legislative change can send a strong message.