ECUADOR: COTACACHI COUNTY VIOLATED BY ILLEGAL PRESENCE OF TRANSNATIONAL MINING COMPANY

By , August 16, 2004
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Cotacachi County has become a national and international reference point for social and economic development, having been recognized globally for its effective environmental protection, and of the quality of life of it’s citizens. The county’s residents are largely indigenous and small-farmers.

Ecuador’s Ministry of Energy and Mines gave away the mining concessions Golden 1 and Golden 2, comprising of 7,000 hectares, in the region of Junin, García Moreno Parish, in the biodiverse Intag region, on August 2002, to Mr. Roque Bernardo Bustamante Espinoza, for a total value of 18,005 dollars.

The area’s 500 families have traditionally lived from small-scale agriculture and cattle raising. In addition, there are extensive areas of primary forests that harbor a great diversity of plants and animals, some of which are in danger of extinction.

As a result of the above, the Cotacachi Municipality, with its mayor Auki Tituaña at the head, in 2003 presented a Constitutional Injunction, on the basis the inhabitants of Cotacachi and Intag had not been previously informed, nor consulted, as is guaranteed in the Constitution and the Environmental Law. The Mining law was likewise violated, as the concession did not have inputs from the Municipality of Cotacachi.

Cotacachi’s Civil judge sentenced in favor of the County and its inhabitants, suspending the mining concession and ruling on its illegality. However, the Minister of Energy and Mines and the concessionaire, appealed to the Constitutional Tribunal, which, in a five to four resolution, revoked the civil judge’s sentence, pretending to rule in favor of the concession owner and the Ministry of Energy and Mine. However, Cotacachi petitioned for a expanded ruling (clarification), which has not yet to date been resolved, making the sentence which suspended the concession still legally valid, as long as the petition is not resolved.

However, and illegally, the concession owner sold his rights to the concession to the transnational Ascendant Exploration (Canada), with authorization from the Ministry of Energy and Mines

In these past few days Cesar Villacís, a retired General in Ecuador’s Army, responsible for Ascendant’s public relations, accused Polibio Perez, president of the Community Development Council, of being a hired by the Mayor to kill General Villacis,

Cotacachi’s Mayor and the president of the Community Development Council are in the process of pressing criminal charges against the above mentioned company employee for slander.

On the other hand, Perez has pointed out that “nowhere in the world has mining brought well-being to the people, but only delinquency, social problems, and environmental destruction. The presence of the mining company has caused deep divisions between García Moreno’s inhabitants, something that had never happened before. For this, I ask of them that they leave”, said Polibio Perez, Community Development Council.

Finally, the Centro de Derechos Económicos y Sociales (CDES), a human rights organization currently advising Intag’s affected community’s, that if Cotacachi’s petition is not respected and resolved in the next few hours, international legal actions will be undertaken against the Ecuadorian government and the transnational mining company.

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