The government of El Salvador and mining opponents won an important victory this month when an arbitration panel threw out an Australian-Canadian mining company’s demand that it be granted US$314 million in compensation after being denied a permit to drill for gold. But anti-mining activists, arguing that the Oct. 14 decision offers only a temporary reprieve, plan to use the attention created by the ruling to press for a permanent ban on metal mining in El Salvador.

An administrative moratorium on mine permits has been in place since 2008; unless the country’s unicameral Legislative Assembly approves it as law, however, a new president could break with predecessors merely by ordering officials to start reviewing applications.

“Conditions could change at any moment, so we can’t stand by with our arms crossed,” says Pedro Cabezas, coordinator of the mining and human rights program at the Association for the Development of El Salvador (Cripdes), a rural development organization that is part of an alliance called the National Roundtable Against Metal Mining. Adds Cabezas: “This is a long fight that will go on for many years.”