Pearls Before Swine: The Apalling Cost of Ecuador’s Extractivist Agenda             

By , January 16, 2018

                    Pearls Before Swine: The Apalling Cost of Ecuador’s Extractivist Agenda*                                                     Where are the voices of the international community in preventing this biological holocaust?

Carlos Zorrilla**

The original title of this text was: Pearls Before Swine: The Troubling Fate of Ecuador’s Biological Diversity

However, as I wrote and reflected on the theme, I became convinced that the loss of biological diversity, as tragic as it undoubtedly is,  is but a minor actor, in this great tragic-folly. 

For, there are  times,  a madness so disjointed with reality, so grotesque in nature, that it is impossible to comprehend it. That is, unless you buy into the  notion that money comes before everything else, including life itself.

The Biblical phrase in the title conveys the idea that it is a waste of time to discuss sacred matters with unlearned individuals. To me, however, the image it portrays reflects perfectly Ecuador’s current craze for designating tens of thousands of square kilometers of the country’s primary forests, pristine rivers and streams, as well as indigenous territories open to large-scale mining.

Something to consider at the outset is that Ecuador is one of the world’s 17 Megadiverse countries, and it is the only Andean nation free of large-scale metal mines. To add to the madness, most of the new mining concessions are within the Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot, the most diverse of the world’s 36 Hotspots.

To put all this in perspective, Ecuador has more orchids and hummingbirds than Brazil, which is 30 times larger. If managed sustainably, the country’s stunning biodiversity could easily guarantee the country’s future, plus provide significantly more employment than mining. In countries like Ecuador, mining´s rapacious nature destroys—virtually in perpetuity–a nation’s renewable resources, often leaving behind ruined landscapes, poisoned waters and social and cultural mayhem.  In the long run it also impoverishes developing countries that go down this path1,1a. Yet, the industry and corrupt governments are comfortable labeling this kind of desolation development.

But that is not all, as the Cat in the Hat would say. The mining concessions also overlap thousands of square kilometers of most of the headwaters of Ecuador’s major rivers. In fact, several of the headwaters where the concessions are situated feed rivers that are being dammed to produce hydroelectricity for export. Yes, you read that right. The sedimentation produced by massive mining projects will inevitably shorten the productive lives of these multi-billion hydroelectric projects.

Maybe it helps to put numbers to the madness: The Andean nation, has, in the last 18 months, handed over two million hectares—nearly 8% of its territory—over to mining companies. One million of those hectares are in indigenous territories. The recipients of what can only be labeled a criminal giveaway have been, for the most part, Canadian, Chilean, Australian and Chinese mining companies, enticed by the drastic deregulation and tax cuts offered by Ecuador.

Furthermore, 750,000 of these hectares overlap at least 39 protected areas called Bosques Protectores2 (Protector Forests)**. These can be private as well as public, and are legally designated by the government to carry out two primary functions: to conserve biodiversity and protect water sources. Precisely the resources that are most affected by large-scale mining in countries like Ecuador.

The Mining Imperative: By co-option if possible, but by any means

One of the most pernicious aspects of the mining imperative in places like Ecuador[,] is the utilization of all of a country’s institutions to support the government’s extractive plans. Support is too nice a word perhaps. When the offers of jobs, roads and clinics don’t convince local communities and Indigenous Peoples, the “support” morphs into outright coercion. It is then when human rights abuses take place. However, so as not to scare away investors, the governments and mining companies are especially good at creating a false sense of compliance with all laws, regulations and international treaties, plus of working hand-in-hand with local communities. It is part of the strategy of selling one of the biggest, best-funded myths of modern times: Responsible Mining.

In these kinds of extractivist regimes, and especially in those whose economies overly rely on exports of commodities, abuses are aided and abetted by a thinly-veiled totalitarian democracy, which concentrates all real power in the Executive Branch of government, typically the arm charged with implementing extractive policies and projects. The other branches, and all the ministries and other institutions under them, serve to accomplish not much more than to cover up violations and legitimize the illegitimate. The operating principle is, mining must go on. When the resistance to the projects starts to threaten the outcome of mining projects, the country will use its courts, army, police, intelligence units, and any other institution to divide, intimidate and coerce.3 Thus, in countries like Ecuador, it is a rarity when the police and military protect the protesters in socio-environmental conflicts. As for the judicial system, several Human Rights organizations have denounced the systematic criminalization of indigenous and campesino environmental and human rights defenders for their views and actions in protesting against environmental crimes4.

Such an extractivist State will do whatever it takes to keep investors happy, and to show the investors that the regime is serious about protecting their investments. In fact, countless human rights violations as well as unimaginable environmental devastation are not averted by governments precisely to comply with bi-lateral investment protection agreements. The consequences of not fully supporting the multinational companies, regardless of how many human rights abuses are being committed, can result in multi-billion dollar lawsuits against the country hosting the extractive projects.

Mining companies love to brag about their sustainable mining ideals, but they sure do cozy up to these types of governments. And they will do anything to elect them, and keep them in power.

Record-Shattering Contradictions

These are, by far, not the only contradictions and hypocrisies associated with Ecuador’s endearment toward the mining industry. Small farmers, private landowners, as well as social, productive, and environmental organizations, plus local governments, have taken pains to protect hundreds of Protector Forests in Ecuador from environmental degradation for decades. The law explicitly prohibits agriculture and ranching within these biodiverse sites, and before Correa government-introduced changes to the legislation, mining was also off limits. Now, the government expects these actors to sit by and watch them being given over to one of the most environmentally destructive activities on Earth. And, the shortsightedness doesn’t end there. These sites are the sources of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians. Many are also being used by communities for ecological tourism.

In fact, the prospect for Ecuador in this field is much greater than for countries like Costa Rica, whose economy is significantly enriched by the activity. Costa Rica prohibits large-scale mining, yet its citizens enjoy a much higher standard of living than Ecuadorians.

To illustrate some of the social and environmental costs of Ecuador’s extractivist agenda, consider the following two examples. Nearly all of the 311,500 hectares of the Kutuku-Shaimi Protective Forest in the Amazon basin has been concessioned to mining companies. All of it, without serious previous consultation with affected communities and local governments. This, in spite of the fact that more than five thousand Shuar indigenous use the forest. And, as is the case in several other protector forests, the Kutuku-Shaimi harbors species only found at this location. In the Intag region, a forest imperiled by the exploratory activities of Chilean-owned Codelco, a frog thought extinct was “rediscovered” in 2016.5 It has not been found anywhere else on Earth. The forest is currently being used by two communities for ecological tourism, an activity that would end were mining to begin; thus affecting the area’s future sustainability.

The environment and local communities are not the only ones being steamrolled by the mining imperative. Democratic values and institutions are also under siege. Prior consultation is a Constitutional right granted to communities and indigenous peoples. According to indigenous organizations, community leaders and local government officials, none of the communities within the hundreds of new mining concessions have been properly consulted to determine if mining harmonizes with the people’s livelihood. Mining also often goes directly against local government development plans; and local governments are rarely, if ever, consulted. Of the hundreds of local governments, only a handful have planned for large-scale mining in their territories.


Why would Ecuador, want to sacrifice its most important wealth; its biodiversity and cultural wealth, and curtail or ruin the opportunities for an economy to be based, at least in part, on a sustainable economic activity such as ecological tourism?  The answer lies in the greed for power, in corruption and unimaginable government waste.

Although things seem to be changing somewhat with the new government elected in April of 2017, the previous regime, led by President Rafael Correa, was characterized by enormous increase in revenues from the sale of petroleum, and subsequent wide-scale public works projects. And an almost unimaginable amount of government waste and corruption. Some of the corruption cases have lately begun to surface, but they are the very tip of the iceberg. (As I write this, Jorge Glas, Correa’s Vice President, is in jail and headed to court6, accused of taking over 16 million dollars in bribes from a Brazilian construction firm, and being a key part of a huge corruption network involving- so far- 12 other government functionaries).

To pay for the new roads, hospitals, universities, etc., the government had to go deep into debt. As the Chinese are taking most of the exportable petroleum in partial payment for deals struck with the Ecuadorian government, the arrangement is making it very difficult for the current government to use revenues from the country’s black gold. Also, and crazy as it may sound, Correa’s government asked for advanced payment for royalties on couple of the largest mining project, thus drying up that source of revenue for the new government!

It’s also a fact that the Asian giant consumes about 50% of the world’s copper thus, many of the new mining concessions are for large copper mines, several Chinese-owned. And China is, incidentally, Ecuador’s main creditor. Those credits, needless to say, do not come without strings firmly attached.7

If There is no Justice, There Will be no Peace.

The extractive path was well laid out before the current government—whose representatives are from the same political party as Correa’s—took over. In fact, most of the changes to the laws and economic incentives favoring mining corporations were already in place two years before Mr Correa made off to Belgium at the end of his term. The extreme de-regulation pushed through by his government prompted the mining industries’ feeding frenzy that led to the concession giveaway. The hundreds of mining concessions given out just before, and right after, the change of government without previously consulting with communities, inevitably will lead to numerous social-environmental conflicts. With very few exceptions, this has been the typical reaction in Latin America for centuries, and there is no reason to think it will change now or in the foreseeable future. In fact, lately the conflicts have heated up, especially around the Intag area in the north, in the province of Azuay, as well as in the Cordillera del Condor in the south. Here communities have started to push back more aggressively against what they perceive as a grotesquely unjust system in which they don’t have a voice and the government is not seen as impartial.  This is especially the case with the concessions within indigenous people’s territories, where the government, so far, has made a farce of their right to Free Prior and Informed Consent.

Money and Politics

Correa and his merry band of phony “socialists revolutionaries” so indebted the country that in spite of campaign promises to go “beyond” extractivism, they did the complete opposite: they greatly expanded it. The difference from past governments is that the Correa government focused on mining and much less on petroleum. They also needed money to keep their “socialist revolution” alive.

As a result, Ecuador has never been more in debt,8 and more unable to pay it off. The country’s embrace of mining helps to assure new creditors that the country can pay off its debt in the future based on the nation’s mineral wealth. Even if such an outcome is mostly wishful thinking.  

Concrete Craziness

Just to have a more concrete idea of the extractive craziness, in the region where I live, the Intag area of Northwest Ecuador—one of the biodiversity gems of the world, the central government has issued concessions covering about 80% of Intag’s 1500 square kilometers. In fact, my home and forest—which happens to be a Protected Forest—is within a concession!  Just in the Intag area, the concessions include within them 54 towns and villages; hundreds of streams and rivers, and thousands of hectares of primary forests. In Ecuador as a whole there must be well over one thousand towns and villages that, all of a sudden, find themselves inside mining concessions.

It is worth a pause here to reflect on the monstrous arrogance implicit in a government issuing mining licenses which include within them whole towns and villages, without previously consulting with the inhabitants. The same goes for the government’s stance toward Indigenous Peoples and their ancestral territories. You would think that any “responsible” mining company, if responsible mining companies indeed exist, would stay as far away as possible from such a mad scheme. Yet, many of the companies buying into this perversity consider themselves to be paragons of responsible mining.

Then, there is the issue of mining in super biodiverse areas. To better put the country’s biodiversity in perspective, the small environmental organizations I work for, DECOIN, has identified, to date, 105 species of mammals, birds, frogs and other animals on the IUCN list of endangered species recorded in, or in habitats like, those found within the 4,839 hectares of Intag’s Llurimagua mining concession. And this doesn’t include trees and other plants. The project, now in advanced exploration, is being developed by Chile’s Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer.

If the above are not enough reasons to question the government of Ecuador’s dysfunctional mining policies, then consider that most of Intag’s mining concessions are within the conservation buffer area of one of the world’s most important protected areas: the Cotacachi-Cayapas Wilderness Area. This official protected area is the only one of any significant size in all of Western Ecuador, and one of the most biologically important in the world.9 All of this points to the unwillingness of Ecuador meeting its international responsibilities for protecting and enhancing its biological diversity.

The Deafening Silence of the International Community

One of the mysteries of this debacle is why the large international organizations, such as Conservation International, Flora and Fauna International and the ICUN, as well as the United Nations, are not saying, or doing, more about Ecuador’s blatant disregard for its international commitments to protect its biological diversity and endangered species. The more so because some of these organizations have funded management plans for some of the protective forests now earmarked for mining. This is the case for the Kutukú-Shaimi Protective Forest´s management plan, which was funded by CARE International. As mentioned above most of its 311,500 hectares is covered in mining concessions.


On the other hand, some European countries as well as international foundations, have made it possible for Ecuador to launch and pay for the innovative Socio-Bosque program. The conservation initiative pays land owners a set price per hectare not to degrade their forests. A peculiar situation and seeming total waste of funds, given that hundreds of thousands of hectares of Socio- Bosque forests are now within mining concessions. The current head of the Ministry of the Environment in Ecuador, Tarsicio Granizo, at one time headed a conservation department for WWF, and had nothing but praise for the biodiversity bounty of the Kutukú at the time. His silence these days is particularly deafening.

On September 26th, Ecuador’s environmental, indigenous, and human-rights organizations asked the government of Ecuador to include in an upcoming national referendum, a proposition to stop mining projects that would impact the nation’s water resources, and most of the nation’s biodiverse forests and other key ecosystems. The new government, however, decided to limit the scope of the question only to officially protected areas—such as National Parks—and urban areas. The decision reveals that the current government’s extractivist agenda, so far, is not much different than that of the last regime.

The pearls being thrown before the swine are too precious, too rare. The international environmental community must find its voice and use it firmly to try to stop this travesty. Now, before it is too late.

* Title Updated January 15 2018

**Carlos Zorrilla is a resident of the Intag area of Ecuador. He is the Executive Director and co-founder of DECOIN, a small, environmental grass-roots NGO conserving Intag’s environment, resisting mining development and supporting sustainable alternatives in the Intag region of Ecuador since 1995.  DECOIN was one of 15 organizations from around the world awarded the United Nation’s 2107 Equator Prize in New York on September 17th 2017.



  1. For a brief introduction to the Resource Curse see

1a. See also

  1. “Roo Vandegrift, Daniel C. Thomas, Bitty A. Roy, and Mierya Levy; 2017.11.05 v1.0; The extent of recent mining concessions in Ecuador; Rainforest Information Center, Nimbin, New South Wales, Australia.”
  2. The recent case of the police and army assault on Shuar Indigenous communities in the Cordillera del Condoris just one example. See: o-make-way-for-giant-mine-in-ecuador



  2. The protected area ranked 161 in irreplaceability importance out of 173,461 evaluated worldwide




El País Concesionado-

By , January 10, 2018

Las ahora (01-2018) casi 4 millones de hectáreas abarcan a:

750 mil hectáreas de no menos de 39 Bosques Protectores

UN MILLÓN  de hectáreas de Territorios Indígenas

Mas de mil centros poblados, comunidades, y comunas

Incontables fuentes de agua, nacimientos de cientos de ríos, bosques primarios y paramos

Mapa cortesía de William Sacher

Sacher, William, 2017, Ofensiva Megaminera China en los Andes. Acumulación por Desposesión en el Ecuador de la Revolución Ciudadana, Quito: Abya-Yala. 





Decoin’s Work, 2017

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By , November 22, 2017



The biggest, coolest most current news is being honored by the United Nations Equator Initiative to receive its 2017 Equator Prize. We were one of 15 organizations chosen from 800 that competed from all over the world for the prestigious prize. The award is awarded every two years for organizations making a dereference in sustainable development and conservation.  This is what the Equator Prize said about our work and the reason we were chosen:

DECOIN, an organization active in the Intag Valley for over 20 years, provides essential support to communities resisting mining interests, conserving over 12,000 hectares of Andean biodiversity and advancing alternative livelihood options for 38 communities. SGP Ecuador has been working as a partner of DECOIN since 1997 and has been supporting several communities and organizations in the Intag Valley in the production of agroecological products and sustainable livelihoods.

                                                                           Photo Credit: Virginie de Haugoubart
Besides the $10,000 dollar we will receive, the UN flew us to New York for the ceremony in September 2017, and me with the rest of representatives from the 14 other organizations from all over the world. The real reward was in the opportunity to publicize our work, and the challenges faced on the ground to guarantee the area’s conservation.

The following is a brief description of our work.

Decoin is a small, grass-roots organization founded in 1995 with the expressed mission of conserving Intag’s renewable resources, with emphasis on Water, Forest, and Biodiversity. We are the only Non-Governmental Organization in Intag with this emphasis. Our area of work is restricted to the Intag area of Imbabura Province, and our staff is made up of people who are Intag residents, which helps to account for our success.

Intag’s forests are part of the Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot, considered to be the most diverse of the world’s 36 Hotspots. The area is still rich in cloud forests and pristine rivers and streams. Of the world’s Tropical Rainforests, less than 2.5% are cloud forests.

Areas of work:

In order to accomplish our mission, we work in the following areas:

Forest Conservation:

Working closely together with 40 local communities and several community groups, as well as Municipal and Parish governments, and with international backing (including UK based Rainforest Concern and GEO schützt den Regenwald), we have been able to conserve approximately 13,000 hectares of primary and secondary forests, that  not only protect Intag’s highly endangered forest and wildlife, but also provide safe drinking water to thousands of Intag residents, as well as protect valuable watersheds. Many of these forests are within the buffer area of the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve, one of the world’s most important protected areas (biologically more important than the Yaasuni National Park).  For more information, please see this YouTube video:

It is worth noting that DECOIN does not own any of the land under protection. Instead, all the land is owned by communities and local governments that obtain their drinking water from the community reserves.  We strongly believe that, in the context of Ecuador’s highly questionable experience in conservation, community-owned hydrological and forest reserves is the best protection option. The overwhelming number of these reserves are owned by local communities or Parish governments.

REFORESTATION: To date, we have helped the communities reforest  nearly 100,0000 trees, reforesting a total of about 62 hectares . Of the about 30 species used, about 70% are native. One of the more important achievements related to the reforestation work is the generation of valuable information on reforestation with native species in cloud forests. Several students from the U.S. and Canada have helped gather, validate, and organize the information, and we managed to publish a pretty complete manual on the topic to help communities here and elsewhere, with this very important work.

In the long run, without people understanding why we are conserving large swaths of forests, there is no way they will be conserved (this holds true for all of the official government reserves) This is why protection without education is bound to fail. And it is why we are spending more and more time and energy and funds on it. Part of that work involves  giving a series of workshops on environmental concepts in over a dozen schools, plus distributing educational material (books, videos). It’s a start, but there are more than 80 schools in Intag, and the official school curriculum is terrible when it comes to Environmental Ed. In 2017, we were able to visit and give workshops to 727 grade-school as well as High-school kids


DECOIN, with help from Rainforest Concern, has carried out several investigations into water quality and species richness in Intag. For example, in March of 2016, two biologist from the Jambatu Center in Quito, hired by DECOIN, discovered eight species of frogs on the list of endangered species, and one that was thought to be extinct since 1989 (  We helped finance two species inventories in the forests of Junin and Cuellaje areas, as well as an in-depth study on the value of Ecosystem Services provided by Intag’s ecosystems (read the report here:  Additionally, we financed an in-depth investigation  on mining’s true impact on Intag’s communities, forests and watersheds by a team of international scientist hired by DECOIN. The report was printed and distributed to local, regional, provincial and national authorities IN 2016.


DECOIN was the founder of the organic coffee initiative known as Café Rio Intag, back in 1998. We also helped the Junin community ecological tourism get established in 2000, a community-owed project that is still going strong. In the past, Decoin also has supported agro-ecological initiatives, and other productive activities (including fish-farming).


The threat from mining has not lessened with the passage of time. On the contrary, it’s intensified during the past 2 years, with the government awarding concessions or accepting requests for over 2 million hectares. In the case of Intag, nearly 80% of its forests, rivers and communities are now within mining concessions. This includes Bosques Protectores, which were previously protected. Our work continues focusing on supporting communities uphold their rights, and fighting for a more sustainable livelihoods. This support has many facets, but includes permanent legal support, education, denounciations, helping organize events, plus supporting local productive groups.

Mining’s Black Cloud

Since 1995, the year DECOIN was founded, Intag’s communities have opposed a  large-scale copper mining project that, according to the only Environmental Impact Assessment ever done for a relatively small open-pit copper mines, predicts wide-scale environmental and social devastation. The impacts include:

  • “Massive deforestation”, which would lead to a of a process of “desertification” (these are terms used in the Assessment itself)
  • Impacts to 12 species facing extinction, including Jaguars, Spectacled Bears and the Brown-faced Spider Monkey (critically endangered- Decoin believes that there are no less than 50 species of animals facing extinction, and perhaps dozens and possibly hundreds of plantsalso facing extinction)
  • Impact to the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve
  • Contamination of rivers and streams with Arsenic, Lead, Chromium and Cadmium
  • Relocation of hundreds of families from four communities
  • Increase in crime

The following year after publishing the EIA, the Japanese company involved in the initial exploration discovered the possible existence of five times more copper

Since 2012, the communities have had to renew their resistance to the mining project, this time confronting the Ecuadorian state-owned mining company (Enami), as well as Chilean-owned CODELCO, the world’s largest copper producer. Currently (late 2017) the company is close to finishing its advanced exploration of the area.

The Fair-trade store that DECOIN opened in Otavalo about in 2010 to sell goods made by local groups in Intag is still going strong. In fact, it’s still the only Fair Trade store in Otavalo. Besides selling sisal and Tagua handicrafts, hand-made soaps and shampoos, and luffa goods, the store offers cafeteria service, serving freshly brewed RIO INTAG coffee. Next time you are in Otavalo visit us at Calle Colon 4655 and Sucre.

Besides the book on Intag’s water quality, we are helped fund and distributed copies of Earth Economics’s “An Ecological Study of Ecuador’s Intag Region”. The book includes very sound economic arguments showing why mining is less economical than preserving the area’s forests, rivers and biological diversity. The book is already in the hands of dozens of Assembly members, well-known politicians, academics and other influential actors (download here ( In 2016 we published a book on mining’s real impact in the Junin area- focusing on the impacts to water resources. The book was widely distributed to decision makers.

DECOIN is still purchasing land for communities and local governments. We have expanded our environmental education work to more schools and kids than ever before.  The next few years, however, promise to be some of the most difficult years for Intag- mainly because the threat that still hangs over Intag related to the Junin mining project; and beyond. Therefore, we will still continue to support the communities to help them defend their rights before this very destructive industry.  This includes, among many other things, holding a lot more meetings, conferences and workshops on the issues; expanding alliances, producing and/or distributing more educational information (posters, brochures, videos) and seeking legal remedies to the mining curse.

Carlos Zorrilla

Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag    DECOIN

Telephone 593 6 2569 023 / 593 6 304 8861

For updates, check Decooin’s Facebook 



DECOIN Wins Presitigious United Nations Prize

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By , July 4, 2017
We are pleased- no, make that ECSTATIC– to announce that the UN Development Programme has chosen DECOIN as one of 15 winners of this year’s Equator Iniciative. The award is a recognition of our conservation work with the communities of Intag during these past twenty-two and a half years. The work, needless to say, would have been impossible without your untiring support, and trust in us
New York, 29 June – The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and partners announced today, the winners of the Equator Prize 2017, recognizing 15 local and indigenous communities from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The winning organizations, which showcase innovative solutions for tackling poverty, environment, and climate challenges, will be honoured at a celebratory gala in New York on 17 September 2017.
Read more here:  
Specific information about DECOIN receiving the prize  

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By , May 29, 2017

Press Release  (SPANISH BELOW)

‘Extinct’ frog rediscovered within Ecuadorian mining concession

The rare Longnose Harlequin Frog was found in a habitat under imminent threat 

A species of frog believed to have been extinct was rediscovered in a community reserve of Northwest Ecuador. The Longnose Harlequin Frog (image below) was found within a copper mining concession near the town of Junin in Imbabura province. Biologists who led the expedition have recommended a stop to all mining activity in the area in order to save the species from extinction. Within the same mining concession, a local environmental organization has identified 104 other species of animals on the IUCN’s Red List facing extinction; including the critically endangered Brown-headed Spider Monkey, and the Andean Bear.

The team of  Ecuadorian biologists responsible for the discovery published their findings on May 25th in the Journal of Neotropical Biodiversity. The frog was last seen in 1989 and was categorized by the IUCN as Critically Endangered tagged ‘Possibly Extinct.’ The authors of the study warned that the small population Harlequin frogs is under imminent threat of losing its habitat  due to the region’s proposed mining operations. The Llurimagua mining project is being developed by the Ecuadorian mining company, Enami, and Chile’s Codelco, and is currently in the advanced exploration stage. The paper states that even current exploratory mining activities have the potential to impact the species. As the Long Nose Harlequin frog breeds in rivers and feeds on aquatic algae, the ongoing contamination of water sources with sediment and arsenic is of most concern. The recommendation of the authors is clear, “Because of these factors, it is of great urgency to stop mining and forest destruction in the area and to prevent the disposal of any kind of pollutants into the rivers and streams.”

Only four individuals of Longnose Harlequin Frog have been discovered so far. Of those three are still alive and have been transferred to the  Jambatu Research and Conservation Center for captive breeding. The center has had prior success in breeding species of the same genus, but the future of this species is far from assured. The study authors say, “The reappearance of Atelopus longirostris in the Intag region of Ecuador constitutes a unique and possibly unrepeatable opportunity to save this endemic species from extinction.”

For more information visit


The full text of the referenced study,  “Rediscovery of the nearly extinct longnose harlequin frog Atelopus longirostris (Bufonidae) in Junín, Imbabura, Ecuador,” is available at:

The study authors were Elicio Tapia, Luis  Coloma and Gustavo Pazmiño-Otamendi of the Centro Jambatu, Nicolás Peñafiel of the Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica

News Release prepared by DECOIN 


Boletín de Prensa

Rana “extinta” redescubierta dentro de concesión minera ecuatoriana

La rana Arlequín Hocicuda se encontró en un hábitat bajo amenaza inminente

Una especie de rana que se creía extinta fue redescubierta en una reserva comunitaria del noroeste de Ecuador. La rana Arlequin Hocicuda (imagen adjunta) se encontró dentro de una concesión minera de cobre cerca de la ciudad de Junin en la provincia de Imbabura. Los biólogos que dirigieron la expedición han recomendado la detener  toda actividad minera en el sector para salvar a la especie de la extinción. Dentro de la misma concesión minera, una organización ambiental local ha identificado 104 especies de animales en la Lista Roja de la UICN que están en peligro de extinción; Incluyendo el Mono Araña de Cabeci-marrón en peligro crítico y el Oso Andino.

El equipo de biólogos ecuatorianos responsables del descubrimiento publicó sus hallazgos el 25 de mayo en el Journal of Neotropical Biodiversity. La rana fue vista por última vez en 1989 y fue categorizada por la UICN como en peligro crítico con la etiqueta ‘posiblemente extinta’ Los autores del estudio advirtieron que la población pequeña de ranas arlequín está bajo amenaza inminente de perder su hábitat debido a las operaciones mineras propuestas en la región. El proyecto minero de Llurimagua está siendo desarrollado por la empresa minera ecuatoriana Enami y la chilena Codelco, y actualmente se encuentra en la etapa de exploración avanzada.

El documento afirma que incluso las actividades exploratorias actuales mineras tienen el potencial de impactar a la especie. Como la rana arlequín de nariz larga se reproduce en ríos y se alimenta de algas acuáticas, la contaminación continua de las fuentes de agua con sedimentos y arsénico es de mayor preocupación. La recomendación de los autores es clara, “debido a estos factores, es de gran urgencia detener la minería y la destrucción forestal en la zona y evitar la eliminación de cualquier tipo de contaminantes en los ríos y arroyos”.

Sólo cuatro individuos de la rana arlequín de la nariz larga se han descubierto hasta ahora. De esos ejemplares, tres siguen vivos y han sido trasladados al Centro de Investigación y Conservación Jambatu para la cría en cautividad. El centro ha tenido un éxito previo en la cría de especies del mismo género, pero el futuro de esta especie está lejos de ser asegurado. Los autores del estudio dicen: “La reaparición de Atelopus longirostris en la región de Intag del Ecuador constituye una oportunidad única y posiblemente irrepetible para salvar a esta especie endémica de la extinción”.

Para más información visite

El comunicado de prensa fue preparado por DECOIN

Side view of Longnose Stubfoot Toad (Atelopus longirostris)

El texto completo del estudio referenciado “Rediscovery de la rana arlequín de largo alcance extinto Atelopus longirostris (Bufonidae) en Junín, Imbabura, Ecuador”, está disponible en: Elicio + Eladio

Los autores del estudio fueron Elicio Tapia, Luis Coloma y Gustavo Pazmiño-Otamendi del Centro Jambatu, Nicolás Peñafiel de la Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica




By , September 12, 2016


Carlos Zorrilla

En el 2009, junto a varios colaboradores, escribí el manual  “Protegiendo a su comunidad en contra de empresas  mineras y otras industrias extractivas”.  El objetivo fue informar a las comunidades de los principales problemas y  amenazas que se presentan cuando empresas extractivas se interesan en explorar o explotar recursos naturales en  territorios comunitarios. El otro objetivo fue compartir algunas estrategias que las comunidades podrían adoptar  para protegerse de los peores impactos de dichas industrias. Una importante parte de la obra se basó en la experien-cia de lucha en contra de varias empresas mineras transnacionales en el Valle de Intag, Ecuador, en la cual yo he participado activamente desde 1995 (La 2nda edición del manual fue publicada en Septiembre del 2016).

Consciente de que la mayoría de personas que viven en el campo (donde se libran la mayoría de estas luchas)  no  tienen tiempo para leer largos textos, me motivé a escribir el presente resumen de lo que considero es la informa-ción más elemental sobre el tema. Por suerte, hoy en día existen varios otros manuales donde Usted y su comunidad pueden- y deben- profundizar sus conocimientos para proteger a su comunidad (ver la lista al final).


Si Usted esta leyendo el presente documento se entiende que Usted y su comunidad tienen dudas sobre los supuestos beneficios que la actividad extractiva traerá a su comunidad, o se oponen abiertamente, y quieren buscar formas de frenar su avance. (Nota: cuando me refiero a al extractivismo, me refiero principalmente a las industrias minera y petrolera)

El primer paso es hacer todo lo posible para evitar que las empresas ingresen a su comunidad.


Si Usted sospecha que el gobierno esta interesado en impulsar algún proyecto extractivo en su región, lo más importante es estar informado sobre dichos planes.

Cómo hacerlo?

  • Revisando las páginas web del equivalente a los Ministerios de Minería y/o Petróleo (si no tiene acceso a la tecnología pídale a algún familiar o amigo en centros urbanos).
  • Solicitando información de parte de funcionarios gubernamentales sobre procesos de entrega u otorgamiento  de concesiones (podría ser a través de asambleístas, legisladores o algún otro funcionario del gobierno nacional o local).
  • Si de un día para el otro aparecen en su comunidad algunas personas realizando encuestas sobre la realidad  socio-wconómica, posiblemente sea el gobierno el interesado en entregar su territorio a empresas extractivas, o ya lo ha hecho. Este tipo de información le ayuda mucho a las empresas. Averigüebien la finalidad de las encuestas, y evite que entrevisten a las familias individualmente. Haga todo lo posible para que primero la comunidad acepte ser entrevistada y que conozca y apruebe las preguntas, y comprométanle a los encuestadores a compartir el resultado de la misma con la comunidad.

Si se entera que el gobierno está planificando entregar sus territorios a empresas extractivistas, alerte rápidamente a su comunidad y comunidades aledañas, al igual que a grupos vulnerables que pueden ser afectados- como ganaderos, agricultores, operadores de turismo, etc. Al mismo tiempo, busque asistencia jurídica de parte de organizaciones no gubernamentales para analizar si se puede frenar el proceso. En la mayoría de países, las concesiones les otorgan ciertos derechos a las empresas que entran en conflictos con derechos colectivos.

Si encuentra que ya existen concesiones en su territorio pero las empresas todavían no han iniciado los procesos de penetración (las empresas y el gobierno lo llaman socialización), una “socialización” que significa división de la comunidad, convoque urgentemente a su comunidad para informar lo que está pasando y de la voz de alerta sobre algunos de los potenciales problemas sociales y ambientales relacionados a la presencia y actividad de la empresa en su territorio.

En esta fase es importante que Usted y varios de sus vecinos y vecinas se informen y conozcan a fondo sobre la activi-dad y la empresa interesada en explotar los recursos dentro de su comunidad y sobre los impactos que dicha extra-cción conlleva incluyendo la presencia de la empresa en sus territorio.  Con esta información la comunidad contará  con mejores argumentos para tomar una decisión informada sobre si quieren convivir o no con el extractivismo. Muchas veces es mejor contar con testimonios de individuos de otras comunidades que han vivido en carne propia los impactos negativos y atropellos del extractivismo. Por otro lado, se podría contactar con personas responsables de  Organizaciones No Gubernamentales que conocen bien el tema y que no estén comprometidas con las empresas  extractivas o el gobierno, para capacitar a los miembros de la comunidad. Los aspectos legales, incluyendo derechos colec.tivos e individuales son importantes tratar en estas reuniones. Es indispensable que   su comunidad conoz-ca bien sus derechos individuales y colectivos y exijan que se respeten.

Si la empresa ha iniciado el proceso de división de la comunidad es indispensable parar el proceso lo más  pronto posible antes de que su comunidad se polarice entre los que apoyan al proyecto y los que se oponen.  Esto se podría hacer convocando a una reunión extraordinaria de su comunidad para exigirle a la empresa una moratoria de 3 a 6 meses del proceso de socialización, o hasta que la comunidad se entere bien sobre la industria y sus impactos  para tomar una decisión. La empresa hará todo lo posible para que esto no se de, pero por otro lado, las mismas  empresasdirán que son respetuosos de los derechos comunitarios y humanos, etc., así que no aceptar una decisión  de lacomunidad como la planteada, les hará lucir mal y  producirá dudas sobre la empresa, al igual que sobre el  proyecto extractivo y el posterior respeto a la voluntad de la comunidad y las leyes.

¿Cómo dividen a la gente las empresas?

El objetivo más importante de las empresas durante toda la vida del proyecto extractivo es conseguir -o dar la impresión que han conseguido- la aprobación de la comunidad. Esa aprobación es conocida como la Licencia Social. Aunque no es un requisito legal -en la mayoría de casos- es muy importante para las empresas, pues la gran mayoría de financistas no invierten en un proyecto extractivo sabiendo -a ciencia cierta- que la comunidad se opone al proyecto. Si existe oposición al proyecto, las empresas -sean estas nacionales, estatales o transnacionales- pueden invertir mucho dinero para dividir a la comunidad con la finalidad de conseguir suficiente apoyo para mostrarle al mundo que su proyecto cuenta con “la licencia social” de la comunidad.

Lo hacen utilizando muchas tácticas, incluyendo:

  • Compra de consciencia de personajes influyentes dentro de la comunidad. Estas pueden ser identificadas de  varias formas, incluyendo en las falsas “encuestas”. Sea cual sea la estrategia,  se identifican sus aspiraciones,  debilidades y fortalezas y actúan sobre éstas.
  • Crean grupos comunitarios afines a sus intereses, o apoyan grupos existentes. Comúnmente son éstos los grupos de choque que se enfrentan a grupos o individuos de la propia comunidad.
  • Ofrecen proveer o proveen servicios básicos necesitados por la comunidad. Las necesidades frecuentemente se identifican en las falsas encuestas antes mencionadas.
  • Desprestigian a los opositores. La campaña de desprestigio puede incluir, difundir falsedades que socavan la  integridad del o de la dirigente, como por ejemplo, decir que roba dinero a nombre de la resistencia. Cuando la  campaña de desprestigio no logra su objetivo las tácticas contra los dirigentes se endurecen, y podrían llegar a ser amenazados de muerte o falsamente enjuiciados y peor, ser ultimados. Cada año mueren decenas de acti-vistas sociales y ambientales por defender a sus comunidades y no siempre los responsables son sicarios contratados por la empresa que lleva a cabo el proyecto. Se sospecha que muchos de los y las dirigentes son victima-dos por propietarios de grandes negocios del propio país donde se desarrolla el proyecto, son gente que tienen mucho que ganar si se desarrolla la mina o el campo petrolero. De igual forma, al culpar a los opositores de   destruir los sueños de ganar mucho dinero rápido, no es nada raro que sea la gente de la propia comunidad o  comunidades aledañas los responsables. Éstos podrían ser  pequeños o medianos proveedores de bienes y  servicios de las empresas; o comuneros que han logrado conseguir puestos de trabajo altamente remunerados. Otros verán su sueño frustrado de vender su (o sus) propiedad (es) a precios exagerados a la empresa.
  • Hacer que la lucha sea conocida nacional y mundialmente ayuda a  proteger a los dirigentes de ciertos riesgos, pero de ninguna manera loprotege de todos los riesgos . Por  lo tanto, tomen las debidas precauciones e infórmese bien de las medidas tomadas en otras resistencias, estudiando los manuales disponibles sobre estos tipos  de luchas.
  • Contratan u ofrecen contratar mucha mano de obra mejor remunerada.De esta manera se aseguran del apoyo de una parte importante de la comunidad. Las empresas tienen por entendido que los empleados harán todo lo posible para apoyar el proyecto extractivo haciendo cosas como:
    • – Firmar documentos respaldando a la empresa,
  • – Informar sobre planes o programas que pueden obstruir el desarrollo del proyecto,
  • – Ayudar a elegirala directiva de la comunidad y organizaciones a personas afines al       proyecto y a los intereses de la empresa.
  • – Normalmente, para no ser despedidos, la mayoría de los empleados actuarán según los  deseos de la empresa.
  • Esta última estrategia es difícil neutralizar. Es por eso que mientras más rápido los comuneros y comuneras tomen conciencia de los verdaderos impactos producidos por la presencia de las empresas y los proyectos extractivos, mejor.

¿Qué hacer? …En este contexto, las comunidades deben asegurarse de ser dirigidas por personas honestas que valoren lo colectivo y que gocen de confianza de la mayoría de la comunidad.

La Exploración no causa daño; uno de los tantos mitos del extractivismo

No deben nunca olvidar el primer mandamiento de las empresas y gobiernos dependientes del extractivismo: hacer  todo lo posible para dar la impresión de que cuentan con la aprobación de las comunidades. Esto incluye descaradamente mentir.

Durante o antes de la exploración las empresas y/o el gobierno harán todo lo posible para convencerles de que la  actividad no causa daño. Sin embargo, el daño social durante la exploración es muy parecido a los daños producidos durante la explotación: división, perdidas de valores y costumbres, desconfianza, tráfico de tierras, alcoholismo, e  incremento de la delincuencia. Las más golpeadas son las mujeres, una vez que se ven obligadas a asumir más  responsabilidades del hogar que anteriormente compartían con su pareja. Es muy común que se propaguen  enfermedades venéreas  en  los campos mineros debido a la presencia de personal de otras áreas que crean demanda por la de prostitución. Por otro lado los impactos ambientales podrían ser significativos ya que para la minería, por  ejemplo, se utiliza y se contamina grandes cantidades de agua. Los bosques también podrían ser impactados cuando se abren senderos o carreteras para transportar los equipos de exploración.

Otros de los grandes mitos del extractivismo- y de modo especial de la minería- es que empleará a gente de la zona.  En términos generales, a nivel mundial, la minería emplea menos del 1% de la fuerza laboral. Empleará, sí, a gente  del sector para “comprar apoyo”, y por un corto lapso de tiempo, hasta que inicie la explotación. Una vez iniciada  esta fase emplea a muy poca gente del sector, debido a que las y los campesinos no tienen experiencia en la industri. Por eso las empresas contratan personal calificado de otras partes del país e incluso de otras naciones.

Cuatro cosas básicas:  

  1. Infórmese bien sobre la empresa, y el proyecto. ¿Quienes son los dueños? ¿Quienes les financian? ¿Qué tipo de problemas ha tenido en otros sitios?  Mientras más se conoce sobre la empresa y sus dueños, más luces para frenarla.  Si la empresa es extranjera trate de contactar a activistas del país origen de la empresa para que  les ayude. Si es nacional, haga lo mismo con organizaciones en la capital. Empiece a buscar el punto débil de la empresa o del proyecto- todas las tienen.Si es una empresa prestigiosa, tendrá mucho temor de que su repu-tación sea dañada. Asegúrese de denunciar a los inversionistas de la oposición de la comunidad y otros riesgos asociados. La misma estrategia de indagación use en cuanto al proyecto: ¿Qué recursos buscan? ¿Cuáles son los linderos de la concesión? ¿Qué tan avanzado está el proyecto?: ¿tienen la concesión en regla? ¿Ya cuentan con el Estudio de Impacto Ambiental? ¿Fue realizado según las normas vigentes? ¿Ya tienen la Licencia Ambiental?. Si su comunidad logra conseguir asesoramiento jurídico, por potenciales irregularidades, el abogado debe  analizar todos los documentos relacionados al proyecto .
  2. Documente absolutamente todo. Y denuncie.  Aún si el gobierno es corrupto y apoya el extractivismo,  haga las correspondientes denuncias. Asesórese bien de cómo hacerlas correctamente y hágalo por cualquier  infracción o irregularidad. Tome fotos, grabe video de las ilegalidades, la deforestación, contaminación de los  ríos, la violencia desatada, etc.  Las evidencias son muy importantes  para denunciar en el exterior; muchas  veces sirve más denunciar afuera que adentro del propio país. Los archivos solo sirven si se publican, así que será necesario usar las redes sociales de lo contrario solo Usted y su comunidad sabrán lo que está  pasando. Es absolutamente indispensable que el resto de su región, el país, y el mundo entero  estén informados.En este contexto, es importante hacer contacto con la prensa regional y nacional y tener-les al día con información precisa y verídica. Para el manejo de las redes sociales (como Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, entre otros), trate de conseguir apoyo gratuito de algún familiar o amigo o amiga que lo sepa  manejar bien.
  3. Cuidado con la socialización.El derecho a la consulta previa y al consentimiento previo es un derecho consagrado en varias Constituciones o tratados internacionales. Estos derechos son muy importantes para las comunidades y pueblos ancestrales, y podría ser una buena herramienta para frenar proyectos extractivos. Por eso las empresas y los gobiernos que viven del extractivismo manipulan a las comunidades para hacer parecer que las comunidades y pueblos ancestrales han sido debidamente consultadas. La manera más fácil de hacerlo es  haciendo firmar a comuneros en reuniones que nada o poco tiene que ver con el proyecto (reuniones de padres de la escuela, por ejemplo). Esto podría hacerse durante la fase de socialización del proyecto por el gobierno o por las empresas. Mejor no firmar nada si sospecha que las firmas pueden ser utilizadas para apoyar al proyecto o a la empresa.
  4. Mientras más aliados, más posibilidades de éxito. Estas luchas suelen ser largas y costosas. Busque aliados a nivel local, nacional e internacional. Tan pronto sea posible, contacte a organizaciones defensoras de  derechos humanos en su país e intente involucrarles en la resistencia. A nivel internacional, contacte a organ-izaciones como Amnistía Internacional, Human Rights Watch, ELaw, Mining Watch Canada, International  Rivers y Cultural Survival. Las organizaciones nacionales seguramente le podrán ayudar a establecer contactos.

Lo anterior ha sido un resumen sintético de los primeros pasos que su comunidad podría tomar en caso de ser  amenazada por empresas extractivas. De ninguna manera es lo único que se puede hacer. Por eso es indis-pensable que Usted y otras personas de su comunidad se capaciten bien aprendiendo de otras experiencias y leyendo manuales producidos por comunidades que han enfrentado a este mal.

Intag, Ecuador

Septiembre 2016

Manuales disponibles sobre la protección de las comunidades ante el extractivismo:

Protegiendo a su comunidad

Segunda edición


DRAGONES EN EL EDEN- Codelco en Intag

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By , August 29, 2016

DRAGONES EN EL EDEN:  CODELCO EN INTAGJunin campamento ocupado abril 2015 policias 1a Med res

En el 2011 los gobiernos de Chile y Ecuador firmaron un convenio definitivo para desarrollar el proyecto cupífero a gran escala denominado Junin, hoy conocido como Llurimagua. El convenio se realizó sin la más mínima consulta con gobiernos locales o comunidades, en un sitio donde las comunidades han rechazado tajantemente la minería desde 1995- forzando- hasta la fecha- a dos empresas transnacionales a abandonar la zona. Los chilenos consideran a CODELCO, la empresa estatal de Chile se considera como el “orgullo de todos”. Pero si esos mismos chilenos supieran lo que esta haciendo su empresa en los bosques nublados primarios de Intag, sería otro cantar.

Ver el resto de la presentación aquí:


BREAKING NEWS/ Javier Ramirez is new president of JUNIN!! JAVIER RAMÍREZ nuevo presidente de JUNIN

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By , December 14, 2015

El día sábado 12 de diciembre,  la comunidad de Junín eligió la nueva directiva en Asamblea General. Javier Ramírez, perseguido político del gobierno de Rafael Correa, ganó la presidencia. Dos otros compañeros que se oponen a la minería le acompañan en la directiva, de esta manera haciendo mayoría las personas que creen en otro tipo de desarrollo.

Hoy ganó la dignidad en Intag. El sentimiento compartido por las comunidades afectadas por la plaga de la minería es que “desde hoy las cosas cambian”.

Este nuevo capítulo de la lucha no será nada fácil. Junín necesitará tu apoyo.

This past Saturday, December 12, the community of Junin chose a new governing board in General Assembly. Javier Ramirez, politically persecuted by President Rafael Correa’s government won the presidency. Two other colleagues who oppose mining will accompany him on the board, thus giving majority to people who believe in another kind of development.

Today dignity won in Intag. The sentiment shared by the communities affected by the plague of mining is that ” from today on things will change.”

This new chapter in this very long struggle will not be easy. Junin will need your support.

Foto de Decoin.

Update New version of 21 reasons

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By , April 23, 2015

Twenty One Reasons Why Codelco Should Stay Out of Intag (updated)

Please see the 21 reasons below the photograph of the latest infamy

Apologies for the lapse.  Life has been intense lately (more than normal)

So, Javier went home, but the appeals court held that he should have served 12 instead of the 10 months the court sentenced him to (the same day he was sentenced he was released since he had already served the 300 days in jail unjustly).  Ah, justice in Ecuador!.  There is some legal wrangling which could last a couple of months which will make it legally impossible for the judicial system to actually arrest him and send him back to prison. Until this remedy is played out he is free and living with his family in Junin, as determined as ever to stop the mining project (SEE DECOIN’S FACEBOOK FOR UPDATES- Especially the Dragons in Eden album)

The company, while Javier was in jail, made progress and are close to starting exploration- if they haven’t already.  Yes, as to be expected,  they are violating all kinds of rights.  They have, for example, taken over part of the community forest reserve land used by tourism by the community and transformed it into a mining camp(SEE IMAGE BELOW). They are getting ready to drill close to pristine rivers and streams, will affect tourism, have built and or resurrected roads without environmental impact studies, and so forth and so on, ad nauseam.. But such is how Responsible Mining takes place in primary forests in a developing countries.  It can be summed up as: the hell with the laws and Constitution, mining at all costs.  And those costs keep piling up. Victor Hugo is still on the run, 375 days after the  sham accusations and mock judicial process.  Amnesty International, the International Human Rights Federation and now  have denounced the numerous and growing abuses by the state. Human Rights Watch is also investigating.

JUNIN COMMUNITY FOREST APRIL 4 2015 (Responsible Mining in action)

Junin campamento ocupado abril 2015 policias 1a Med res

                            Twenty-One Reasons Why Codelco should stay out of Intag

April 2015 

Two decades after the resistance to mining in Intag began against a large-scale mining project, which led to the expulsion of two transnational mining companies and the creation of sustainable alternative, Chile’s mining company Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, in conjunction with Enami, the Ecuadorian state-owned mining company, is ready to being exploratory activities in one of the world’s most threatened and biodiverse forests: Intag’s Toisan Range.

I think it disingenuous when companies say “we didn’t know”; or “had we only known”, or even lamer yet:  “had the government made it clearer that…”  then they try to weasel out of assuming responsibility for their catastrophic economic, social and environmental blunders.  This then, is an attempt to draw attention to some of the hurdles Codelco, or any mining company, would face if they tried to open up a mine in Intag.

Studies and more Studies.

To justify their existence in certain projects, mining companies, when  they can afford it, hire hot-shot NGO’s to carry out interviews and studies to ascertain popular perception on mining, identify key players, and confirm that they are loved. Then they actually go ahead and base their decisions on the study’s results!  Even though they know they are lies at worst, or at best, written to please the funders.  As if an area’s complexity and attitudes could be studied in a few days or weeks.

A Brand New Century.

If there’s anyone interested in investing in Intag’s mining project reading this, you probably know- or should know- as all responsible mining companies can attest to (as well as key players like the World Bank), that support from the Executive Branch of government is not nearly enough guarantee a project’s success. You need genuine (not manufactured or self-delusional) social license issued freely, without pressures or intimidation.  In fact, national government support is no guarantee at all the project will succeed. So, do NOT bank on the government’s enthusiastic endorsement.  You’ll lose. Big time.

I am positive that if most INVESTORS were find out about all the risks and obstacles facing mining in this corner of Ecuador, they would pull out.

This, then, is one more attempt to try to inform of the reality behind the lies and distortions being generated around the Junín mining project, and just 21 of the reasons why this project, as BN Americas pointed out in 2013, is bound to fail (click here).


  1. Based on the Bishi Metals Environmental Impact Assessment of mining in Intag, and on a small (450,000 ton) copper mine (a couple of years later they inferred the existence of 5x more copper)
  1. Intag is no like the Atacama desert, where Codelco has its copper mines. Besides being super biodiverse, there are communities all over the place. According to the Study, the mining project would relocate hundreds of families from four communities.  Afterwards, the Japanese found more five times more copper, which could increase the number of communities affected by two- at the very least. Relocation of communities is more than enough to stop most extractive projects.
  1. It would impact primary cloud forests.  What’s so special about cloud forests?  Less than 2.5% of the world’s tropical forests are cloud forests. They are not only exceptionally biologically diverse- as well as severely threatened-  but they play an outsize role in protecting important headwater watersheds.
  1. The project would cause massive deforestation(in the words of the experts preparing the Study). The small mine would directly impact 4,025 hectares.
  1. The deforestation, according to the Japanese, would lead to drying of local climate, affecting thousands of small farmers (the EIA used the worddesertification). You think communities will let this happen once they truly get the picture???
  1. Intag’s forests belong to the world’s top Biodiversity Hotspot; the Tropical Andes. The scientist working on the study identified 12 species of mammals and birds facing extinction that would be impacted by the project, including jaguars, spectacled bears, mountain tapirs and the brown-faced spider monkey. (Based on incomplete studies, Decoin identified more than 30 species of threatened or endangered plants and animals, and there could be dozens more).

Every year new species are found in Ecuador’s cloud forests, and this includes the spectacular Prince Charles frog, as well as the only carnivore discovered in the Western Hemisphere in the last 35 years.  In addition, the area has several other endemic species, such as the recently discovered Shape-shifting Rain Frog (Pristimantis mutabilis), and the Black-breasted Puffleg Hummingbird, which exists in only two patches of high altitude cloud forests- one of them located in Intag.

  1. There are pristine rivers and streams everywhere within the concession.  The EIA predicted they would be contaminated with lead, arsenic, chromium, cadmium and other toxic substances.
  1. The project would, unquestionably, destroy pre-Incan Yumbo archeological sites.  This is one of the least studied cultures in Ecuador.

It would impact the Cotacachi-Capayas Ecological Reserve (one of the world’s most biologically diverse protected areas and the only large one in all of western Ecuador).

Besides these very worrying impacts identified in the Study (for a mine a fraction of what it could end up being)…  there are other significant hurdles.

Legal hassles

  1. Large-scale mining would violate the legally-binding Cotacachi County Ecological Ordinance created in 2000.  Only the Constitutional Court can rule on the validity of the Ordinance in light of the new Constitution. And the Court l has not.

Ecuador’s new Constitution demands that communities be consulted before any project impacting their social or natural environment takes place; a Constitutional guarantee that has been disregarded from day one. The Constitution also grants nature rights, and the people right to Sumak Kawsay, or a Good Life (also translatable as Harmonious Life) .  Good luck trying to convince a decent government and world opinion that open pit mining will not violate these two fundamental rights (no matter how obscenely the government decides to define the indigenous concept of a “Good Life”).  Just because a government does its best to distort the Constitution does not mean a future one will do the same.

Waning political support.

  1. One of the things the government likes to underline is that it has the area´s political support. As of February 2014 this is no longer true, as the president’s party, Alianza País, lost badly in local elections in Imbabura province, site of the mining project. In fact, Imbabura was one of the provinces where Mr. Correa’s party lost more municipalities (5 out of 6) than anywhere else in the country.   One of those Municipalities is the Cotacachi, which encompasses the Llurimagua mining concession. The new Mayor, Jomar Cevallos, is firmly opposed to mining.
  1. Opposition.

There is widespread opposition to the Intag mining project. This includes:

  1.  The new threat has actually mobilized more organization at the local, county and national level, than ever before.

Community Opposition. Many communities surrounding the mining project are still, after all these years, opposed to the project. There are some that seemingly have given their approval, though under duress and without any consultation whatsoever taken place. Proof of this is that on September and November 2013 the government tried to carry out an environmental impact study and were stopped by the communities- in spite of heavy police presence, and military in the area.

  1. Human Rights Violations.

After years of stopping dozens of attempts by government and private companies of accessing the mining concession that overlap communal land in order to carry out the environmental impact study and begin exploration, the government and Codelco only succeeded in carrying out the study in May of 2014 with the help of hundreds of police that terrorized the area for two months and violated rights, such as the right to freely circulate. To intensify the intimidation, a month earlier Javier Ramírez, president of the Junín community was arrested and jailed under highly irregular circumstances, which have been denounced by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, and The International Human Rights Federation, as well as several national human rights groups. Human Rights Watch is currently investigating the numerous human rights violations surrounding the Javier Ramirez case.  Javier was released after being sentenced in February of 2015 but only after serving 10 months in jail. His brother Victor Hugo remains in hiding accused of sabotage, the same criminal offense as his brother, for putting up resistance to the presence of Enami employees in their territory.

  1. 90% of NGO’s in Cotacachi County and Intag oppose the project. In late 2012, the most important civil society organizations in Intag wrote a letter to Chile’s president to make sure he understood that the organizations would again rise to defend the area if Codelco or anyone went ahead and tried to revive the project.  .


Exaggerated Copper Claims

15. In 2007, Micon International, the entity contracted by Ascendant Copper to evaluate the Junin copper deposit, said that it could not confirm their earlier estimates due to degradation of samples. Copper Mesa had been saying all along that the Junin copper deposit had four times more copper than what the Japanese inferred after years of exploration.   In all, 2.26 million tons were inferred by the Japanese, which is a little less than 1/10thof what the world consumes annually (and it would take decades to mine it all out).


Further environmental challenges

16. The area receives between 3000 and 4000 millimeters of annual rainfall. Heavy rainfall, abundant underground   aquifers, and heavy metals in the ore make for a deadly mix.  Not only that, but they raise the price of mining         considerably, while greatly increasing the risks of man-made disasters, such as landslides.  For an idea of what a   landslide can do in an open pit mine, gohere:


  1. The ore contains toxic heavy metals and sulfur (which will cause Acid Mine Drainage).


  1. There is a superabundance of underground water (according to Japanese EIA). This is bad news for mining companies and even worse news for the environment.


  1. The area where they found the copper is exceptionally steep and mountainous, making mining much more difficult and expensive than most mines.


  1. There are clear indications that Junín’s copper is very deep, making mining much more environmentally destructive and economically risky.  Emphasis on Economically risky.


  1. The Toisan Range has many geological faults, posing significant earthquake risks.


There are, in fact, more than 21 reasons for Codelco to stay out of Intag. But these should suffice for any company that considers itself responsible and to realize that Intag’s forests and inhabitants should be a no-go zone.


For more information contact Carlos Zorrilla at Decoin (


Further Reading

There are innumerable articles on this struggle, but a good place to begin is:


BnAmericas article here


Current information can be found at DECOIN’s Facebook page, but also in these sites:


La cárcel no termina lucha de activista Javier Ramírez

By , February 22, 2015

Título del artículo del Universo de hoy:   La cárcel no termina lucha de activista Javier Ramírez

The title of today’s El Universo newspaper reads:  Jail did not put and to the struggle for activist Javier Ramirez  (please translate with      or your favorite translator 

Favor lean el articulo y video de la entrevista con  Javier


Aunque la justicia en la provincia de Imbabura condenó a diez meses de cárcel por rebelión a Javier Ramírez, líder antiminero de Íntag, él afirma que continuará luchando por una zona libre de extracción minera.

El golpeteo de la copiosa lluvia contra los techoyos de zinc y teja inunda el pequeño poblado de Junín, ubicado en la parroquia García Moreno, cantón Cotacachi, en Imbabura. Son las 09:00 del 18 de febrero del 2015 y casi no hay adultos en la plaza central, a la que tienen frente las únicas doce casas y una iglesia, en el centro de la comunidad.

Los pocos niños que gritan de vez en cuando mientras juegan en el lodoso patio y unos cuantos gallos que desde la rama de un árbol parecerían intentar callar al correntoso río Junín, confirman que hay vida en aquel lugar, escondido entre una abundante vegetación subtropical.

Al líder antiminero del valle de Íntag, Javier Ramírez, la tranquilidad natural del lugar no le es extraña, lo que sí le inquieta, dice, es que ahora el silencio del caserío esté marcado por la división y el temor.

Fue lo que Ramírez percibió a pocos días de estar de vuelta en Junín, luego de cumplir una condena de diez meses en el Centro de Rehabilitación de Ibarra, acusado del delito de “sabotaje y terrorismo”.

La sentencia del Tribunal de Garantías Penales de Ibarra señala que los hermanos Ramírez, Javier y Hugo, junto con cinco personas más agredieron, en el sector de Chontal Alto, a cuatro funcionarios de la Empresa Nacional Minera (Enami-EP), que pretendían, el 6 de abril del 2014, difundir los alcances del proyecto Llurimagua, que busca explotar un potencial geológico de cobre-molibdeno de 318 millones de toneladas.

“Con el reconocimiento de los hechos, el informe de Criminalística, la pericia del médico legal, así como con los testimonios de los cuatro empleados de la empresa del Estado, su conducta (la de Javier Ramírez) se adecúa a lo dispuesto por la Ley, en tal sentido se le impuso 10 meses de prisión”, se estableció al final del proceso.

Javier Ramírez niega la acusación asegurando que él estuvo enfermo en su casa aquel día. Recuerda que los policías que lo detuvieron, el 10 de abril del año pasado en Nanegalito (Pichincha), jamás le mostraron una orden de detención, ni le informaron de lo que se le acusaba.

“Primero me dijeron que tenía un juicio de alimentos y solo fue hasta la madrugada del siguiente día en Otavalo (Imbabura) que me manifestaron que estaba detenido por terrorista”, afirma este dirigente de 38 años, mientras abraza cariñosamente a su hija Evelyn, de 10 años, la última de sus cuatro hijos.

Aunque los dos hermanos Ramírez fueron involucrados en el proceso, el Tribunal Penal, el 10 de febrero último, sentenció a diez meses por el delito de rebelión solo a Javier, Hugo está prófugo. Javier salió libre de inmediato. Él permaneció detenido el mismo tiempo que se le dio como sentencia.

Esta detención es calificada de “injusta”, incluso por habitantes de Junín, como Marcia Calvache, que están a favor de la explotación minera que harán la estatal Enami y la empresa chilena Codelco en la zona de Íntag. La mujer, de 33 años, asegura que el día de la agresión, Ramírez no estuvo en el lugar.

“Él siempre fue inocente”, afirma Calvache, cuyo esposo trabaja desde hace ocho meses en el proyecto Llurimagua. Ella, además, es parte del grupo de doce mujeres que se organizaron para brindar el servicio de alimentación a los trabajadores de la Enami.

La historia de oposición a la minería en Junín, al igual que en otras comunidades ubicadas en el valle de Íntag (Chontal, Chalguayacu Bajo y Alto…), se remonta, para los lugareños, a inicios de 1990, cuando la compañía japonesa Bishimetals y luego la canadiense Ascendant Copper realizaron trabajos de exploración en busca de cobre.

Desde finales del 2011, la Enami maneja la concesión de 4.839 hectáreas conformadas por bosques nublados primarios, secundarios, cultivos orgánicos y al menos 26 ríos, de los que dependen no solo las comunidades sino una serie de animales en riesgo como osos de anteojo, pumas o tapires de montaña.

De llegar a confirmarse el potencial del mineral en la zona, según la Enami, eso significaría que la mina a cielo abierto que se planifica sería una de las más importantes de la región.

La polarización que produce el tema minero ha superado la lucha con las autoridades y se instala en el interior de la comunidad de Junín. Ramírez afirma que el 70% de los poco más de 260 habitantes de la comunidad no quieren la minería; pero Anita Enríquez, quien depende económicamente de la Enami, dice que la mitad de la población está a favor de la actividad, incluidos tíos de Ramírez, y la otra mitad está en contra.

Ambos consideran que la detención del líder ecologista causó temor y generó que mucha gente que rechazaba la minería deje de hacerlo o –al menos– ya no hable de su posición.

La división no solo está entre los adultos. La pequeña hija de Ramírez también la ha sentido entre los que llama “ecologistas y mineros”. Ella cuenta que desde hace un tiempo se alejó de su mejor amiga, cuando descubrió que esta le contaba a sus padres –quienes están a favor de la minera– y ellos a su vez a gente de la Enami, lo que ella le decía sobre lo que sus padres pensaban de la minería.

En Junín, la gente prefiere no decir quiénes están con uno u otro lado. Una señal o un gesto es lo único que hacen para decir si alguien está con Ramírez o en contra. “Es mejor no meterse”, indica un habitante que prefiere no identificarse.

Al ya tenso ambiente que se vive en el poblado se suma, desde hace poco menos de ocho días, el patrullaje de policías montados a caballo.

Ramírez afirma que su idea de luchar por la naturaleza se fortaleció en estos meses de cárcel. Un efecto contrario, dice, de lo que pretendían “quienes armaron todo este teatro”.

Mientras retoma sus proyectos pendientes en su casa y en sus cultivos de café, Javier Ramírez está empeñado en difundir lo dañina que es la minería, para lograr que así la gente decida aprobarla o rechazarla, pero desde el conocimiento.(I)


2014, abril 06

La Enami denuncia la agresión física de pobladores contra cuatro de sus trabajadores, quienes ingresaban al sector de Chontal Alto para difundir el proyecto minero Llurimagua. Un vehículo de la empresa sufrió daños.

2014, abril 10

Policías detienen a Javier Ramírez en la zona pichinchana de Nanegalito. El líder antiminero regresaba de Quito junto a Polibio Pérez, líder de Chalguayacu Bajo, luego de una reunión originada por José Serrano, ministro del Interior.

2015, febrero 10

El Tribunal de Garantías Penales de Ibarra sentencia a Javier Ramírez, bajo el cargo de rebelión, a diez meses de prisión por los hechos ocurridos en Chontal Alto, el 6 de abril pasado. La pena no incluye a Hugo Ramírez, pues él se encuentra prófugo



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