As you know, we are confronting a new mining company (Ascendant Exploration) in the Junin area that is investing a lot of money in convincing people that mining really is what everyone needs. They are literally investing money in “people”, outright buying them, offering high paying jobs, clinics, roads; well, you know the story (even to help them set up their own “integral organic farms!!). They’ve gone so far as to hire people from Intag (2 that we know of) to spy on Decoin and tell lies about us (such as we make 3,000 dollars a month each, and that we are quietly becoming owners of all the community reserves, plus that we are exploiting the communities to become rich, and so on and on and on…).
The resistance is still firm – especially in Junin – but because of so much misinformation and the free-flow of money, some people are changing sides, mainly in other communities.
As in other times, we are the only organization financially helping the communities stand up against the company. We are doing this by, among other things, constantly covering the costs of people from Junin and other communities to travel to Cotacachi, Quito and Apuela to meet with lawyers, Cotacachi’s Mayor, and so on. For example, this coming Thursday, we are meeting with Ministry of Energy and Mines, plus the Mining Company, and Cotacachi Municipal government; Quito lawyers, DECOIN, plus about 8 others NGO, AND, about 15 people from the communities in Junin and surrounding area. Decoin is the only organization covering the costs of people to come from Intag to Cotacachi, and covering their food and overnight lodgings.
UPDATE 22 MAY
We recently got a hold of the Ascendant Exploration’s “Development Plan for the Junin Area” ; which includes development plans worth 16.5 MILLION DOLLARS to benefit Junin and 5 other communities around the mining area. It includes computers for 37 grade schools; 30 kilometers of road construction and maintenance; a fully equipped clinic, a full time doctor and orthodontist; an ambulance; 1,000 new homes (at only $ 1,500 per house); and so on and on. The first things budgeted are bridges over a couple of rivers that already have bridges. Needless to say this plan was constructed with very little, or no participation, and has one goal: to get the communities to stop opposing the mining project. And it’s beginning to work.
I forgot to mention that foundation implementing the development project shares the same address and telephone number as the Mining Company (Ascendant Exploration). Incredible coincidence, I’m sure.
Some communities have already agreed to “be part of the plan” in order to start receiving benefits. When asked, however, when the things offered would be carried out, mining company officials respond that “it depends on the project’s progress”- referring to the mining project. Junin has not signed to be part of the project and are holding out, in spite of more and more pressure from surrounding communities that see it (and of course, us at DECOIN) as the main obstacles to a “better life”. The other activity the company is investing in, is spreading lies about DECOIN and its members. They’ve taken to hiring people from INTAG to lie about Decoin; saying our members are earning tens of thousands of dollars per month and are keeping all the money that should go to the communities. As you can imagine, there is a tremendous amount of tension in the area.
Besides the constant lobbying work we are involved in, we are needing urgent funds for the following:
I. Environmental Education campaign: the main objective is to counter the damaging lies about mining they are spreading, and the misinformation about DECOIN (for some reason they are afraid of us- we are the only organization they are smearing).
It’s urgent communities know their rights when companies come rolling into town, and they learn to differentiate truth from lies. For example, company officials are telling people they do not need permission to go into their concession – which is totally false; they also are saying they only need an environmental impact statement for the exploitation phase, which is another lie – they need it for exploration too. There are many instances where a good educational campaign will help the communities and demostrate how they are lying.
II. Support for the Community Development Council: The grass-roots organization was created in Junin with representatives of several communities affected by the mining project, and has the support of many local organiztions. One of their main objectives is to lead the opposition to mining activities. Most of the work above will be with their participation and coordination. Three of the four members of the board of this organization are all from Junin and part of the Community Ecological Tourism Project.
They are asking us to help them get funding so they can reach the rest of the communities in order to strengthen the opposition and keep them informed. They are also seeking support to start working on their own development plans for local communities: they do not want to be seen just as another organization opposed to mining; they want to support productive projects for local communities
THIS SUPPORT IS CRUCIAL. It is essential to support this local community organization lead the struggle at the grass-roots level. The most important work for them right now is informing other communities about their organization (founded May 15), informing about the mining threat, and gathering more support. The most critical right now is exposing the lies contained in the mining company’s so -called “development plan for the Junin area”, which is full of outrageous promises meant only to get people to accept the mining project, and which they will never be able to meet.
Funding: Any amount will be helpful, to cover basic operating expenses is needed (transportation, telephone, and one community meeting per month). The funding will make it possible for them to start working on alternative productive proposals for the communities. DECOIN will also be supporting specific events they will be organizing with the reduced funds we have (So far we have been covering their operating costs).
III. Legal defence: Decoin is helping Junin present their case to the Interamerican Human Rights Commission in Washington. This is, obviously, a very big undertaking, one for which we do not yet have funds for, since it was only on May 15th that Junin took this decision. Any financial help to the legal defence fund will be a great help (currently we are using funds that were earmarked to anti-mining campaign, and which is inadequate). We need funding to cover the costs of Junin and Decoin representatives to travel to Quito to meet with the defence team who are helping to formulate and present the legal case; in compiling information (lots of photocopies), and any of a million things that will be needed to present such a case.
There is a lot at stake besides just mining or no mining. We all have a lot invested in sustainable initiatives in Intag. Cotacachi has a real potential of becoming a model of sustainability for the rest of the country. Please help make it happen.
If you have any questions, please let me know.
Please see the update below for more information.