Is Ascendant Exploration turning into Ascendant Desperation?

By , September 27, 2004
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Junin is a world class copper-molybdenum-gold-silver porphyry deposit. Miocene granodioritic rock was intruded by younger mineralized quartz-dioritic and granodioritic porphyries. The economic mineralization is mainly related to primary sulphides. However the existence of secondary enrichment zones increases the potential. Junin is a project in an advance stage (geology, geochemistry, geophysics, drilling, environmentals, prefeasibility).

— Taken from Ascendant’s Exploration’s web page

Monday 27 October 2004

Reality: Ascendant is in deep trouble with the Junin project.

Number ONE: there is no drilling, geological, geochemistry environmentals (whatever that is!) work going on. At all. This is because of the strong and growing resistance to the presence of the mining company in the Intag region. The only thing they’ve drilled is some old boards on an old building they are renting in the increasingly anti-mining village of Chalguayacu Bajo! Period!

Most of Ascendant’s concession is within the Junin Community Ecological Reserve. They’ve been kicked out of there twice; once by an angry-machete-and-sticks yielding women’s group. There is no drilling or any exploration work going on, nor will there be, because the Junin community will not allow miners into their reserve. Then again, the other part of Ascendant’s mining concession is within the Chontal Protected Forest Reserve. This is a legal protected area which is nearly impossible to obtain mining permits to even explore, and much harder to exploit! (there are no instances of mining exploitation from Protected Forests Reserves).

Number TWO: Level of Opposition: Absolutely all the communities potentially impacted by the mining project are against the project. Without exception. This includes Junin, Barcelona, El Triunfo and Cerro Pelado, which are slated for full relocation. On the other hand, the list of communities supporting these directly impacted communities is growing; this in spite of the money the company is “investing” to try and get support. The latest example of the level of opposition to Ascendant by locals came about a week ago when mining employees were trying to delineate a (illegal) road to the mining concession. Hortensia, a local woman campesina came out with a machete to tell the mining employees to build their road somewhere else, and that they were not going through any land of hers. The Machete Diplomacy worked, and two days later, a support group from Junin and other communities was formed and travelled to Hortensia’s land to help patrol the land around her farm, and yet another local resistance group was formed in the community of San Edmundo.

Number THREE: It’s a bad project in a stunningly biodiverse area. There’s no way world opinion will let this project happen. It would destroy thousands of hectares of primary cloud forests belonging to the hottest of the planet’s biological Hotspots: the Tropical Andes. These forests are the habitat at least 28 species of mammals and birds threatened with extinction (no studies on other animals or plants have been done!). It would contaminate pristine rivers with lead, arsenic, chrome and cadmium, and impact what is arguably the world’s most biodiverse protected area; the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve.

It’s very relevant that as the company invests more and more money in trying to buy support, the level of opposition keeps growing around the mining site. The company has had to go much further afield to try and get support; knowing full well it will be the communities closest to the mining site who will determine the outcome. And they have already decided.

The resistance is also actively supported by local township governments and the Cotacachi County and almost 100% of the organized groups working in the Intag area. Cotacachi’s indigenous Mayor, Auki Tituana has publicly stated he will take the mining company to court if they persist in their efforts in Junin. He already presented a Constitutional Injunction against the mining concession last year. The legal action is still pending final resolution by the Tribunal.

Number FOUR: Cotacachi County was declared an Ecological County in September of 2000, and counts with very firm environmental regulations prohibiting mining activities from taking place. The next legal step is to take the case to the Organization of American States Commission on Human Rights (Washington D.C.). Junin is working with the CDES legal team who has successfully represented the indigenous community of Sarayacu against the Argentinean petroleum company in Ecuador’s Amazon.

Why would Ascendant want to lie about their activities in Junin? Easy: they have so far thrown away hundred of thousands of dollars into what they call “community development” in the Intag area, yet they have been unable to start exploration activities, and are losing local support by the day. Someone has to keep the investors fooled, otherwise the money might start drying up. Not only have they been unable to drill for mineral samples, they have not even been able to do an environmental impact study, because, well, the community of Junin will not let them onto their land. Can’t drill if you don’t have an environmental impact study. And you can’t do a environmental impact study without actually going into the concession! Exquisite catch 22.

The recent start of the rainy season in Intag means Ascendant has been beaten this year in their efforts to begin exploratory activities. The rains, however, will not keep Junin and our Mayor, Auki Tituana, from pressing their legal cases in the national and international arena.

Ascendant: are you getting the message?

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