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.In an obscure World Bank court, a multinational mining firm is suing El Salvador for attempting to protect its citizens from deadly mining pollution.

Banner of Salvadorans protest

Salvadorans protest in favor of a ban on all mineral mining laurizza / Flickr.

An obscure tribunal housed at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. will soon decide the fate of millions of people.

At issue is whether a government should be punished for refusing to let a foreign mining company operate because it wants to protect its main source of water.

The case pits El Salvador’s government against a Canadian gold-mining company that recently became part of a larger Australian-based corporation. When OceanaGold bought Pacific Rim last year, it identified the Salvadoran mining prospects as a key asset, even though gold prices have sunk by more than a third from their 2011 high of more than $1,900 an ounce.