El Salvador bans all metals mining, marking first

El Salvador's congress has approved a total ban on the mining of metals in the country, one of the first to enact such a broad ban.

Environmentalists have noted that some other countries have enacted bans on strip mining, open-pit or heap-leaching techniques. But the bill passed Wednesday in El Salvador would not allow any underground, above-ground or artisanal mining for metals. That includes exploration, extraction or processing ore with techniques that often involve cyanide or mercury.

Proponents say the measure is needed to protect the water supply.

Mining for non-metallic substances like salt, stone or sand would still be allowed.

Human rights prosecutor Raquel Guevara called it "a historic day for El Salvador."

Exploration has revealed deposits of gold and silver, but El Salvador has no large-scale metal mining.