Sorry for the lapse in updates, but it’s been too crazy. Here’s a quick update on the situation in Intag
Wishing everyone happy, peaceful holidays,
September-December: As a result of a denunciation by a prestigious human-rights organization (CEDHU), Ascendant Exploration is being investigated for possible human rights abuses, including death threats to local anti-mining activists in Intag.
Mid October-November: After a major political loss, where most pro-mining candidates lost election bids for township government (and Mayor race) posts in Intag and Cotacachi, Ascendant takes part of many community meetings proposing the creation of a new county (they want their own mining county!). They keep offering communities all kinds of things and projects and in return get hundreds of signatures on blank pieces of paper. Later some of these signatures will be used on a criminal court case against a local anti-mining activist (Polibio Perez). Counting the slander case against the Intag paper, Ascendant is directly or indirectly responsible for 4 criminal court cases against anti-mining activists.
November: Ascendant gets a letter from a group of lawyers in the UK warning them of a possible criminal case against the company if they continue work as they have in the past, and cause death threats and human rights violations, as they have been associated with in the Intag area.
Mid November: Ascendant asks for and, unusually quickly, gets another 900 hectares of mining concessions in the Cuellaje township – only 2.5 kilometers upriver from to the town of Cuellaje. The area is a prime cattle and agriculture area and extensively populated and. Two smaller communities are within the concession. Furthermore, the concession takes in sections of 4 rivers.
December: The first part of the letter-writing campaign starts (if you have not received your email yet, you soon will). the letters are directed to the Toronto Stock Exchange asking the new Ascendant Copper Corporation not be listed in the stock exchange because of, among other things, Ascendant’s unethical corporate behavior and human rights violations in Intag.
December: Al Geddicks from the Center for Alternative Mining Development Policy, a Wisconsin-based NGO, sends a letter to the Toronto Stock Exchange questioning Ascendant’s copper reserve estimate in the Junin concessions, which is much lower than the Japanese estimated after years of drilling and sampling. He calls for the Stock Exchange to investigate for possible fraud.
14 December: The first special county-wide Assembly was held in Cotacachi. The only topic was mining. The assembly was requested by sectors of civil society in the highlands of Cotacachi who wanted to know more on the issue and find ways of helping the struggle. Approximately 300 people came from many communities and organizations in Intag and Cotacachi and some from powerful organizations in Quito as well as other organizations in other parts of Imbabura. There was unanimity in seeing mining as a major threat to the county, and a total rejection of it by all those present. A series of measures was agreed on to step up the opposition and included the creation of legal ordinances, as well as direct actions, to stop the mining projects. All the representatives from the different organizations pledged their support to stop the mining in Cotacachi. The opposition to mining, in other words, just got some additional and very powerful support.
15 December: Our Mayor, Auki Tituaa, signs a letter to Ascendant board members radically denouncing Ascendant’s activities in Cotacachi and highlighting some of the human rights abuses taking place since Ascendant’s presence in Intag. He unambiguously expresses his will to continue to support the communities against mining activities in Cotacachi County (see our web page for the translated version).
17 or 18 December: Ascendant Exploration withdraws its Junin project from its web page, where it was the crown of the company’s concession jewel. However, the Ministry of Energy’s web page still has Ascendant as the owner of the mining concessions. It is likely they hope to keep low until the new company is listed on the stock exchanges, then they would resume their aggressive actions against the opposition (please help us stop Ascendant from listing the company!).
GREEN CHRISTMAS IN INTAG: Ascendant gave small Christmas presents to thousand of Intag school kids as yet another shameless bid to try and win support for their destructive mining project. The presents were mostly cheap crackers and candy and even cheaper plastic toys. The communities most affected by mining rejected this repugnant offer, and have warned Ascendant representatives not to come to their communities (latest warning came on 26 December on a letter given to a Ascendant representative)
New Threats: The company has put up a sign in the parish township of Garca Moreno announcing the enlisting of workers for the JUNIN MINING PROJECT. The talk is that they will go in by force in January if Junin does not yield. And they will use some of the illegally gathered signatures to prove they have majority support. However, not one of the communities potentially impacted by the mining project has signed any petition or document accepting the project, and the great majority of communities and organizations in the Intag area and Cotacachi still vehemently opposed the mining project.
If it is true about the invasion, we foresee violent confrontations and possible loss of life.
Several projects are in the works for the areas affected by mining, including Junin, Barcelona and Cerro Pelado. A recently created women’s group in Junin will soon be implementing a project creating banana and yuca flour; a project in Barcelona is already making yogurt thanks to the support from the Talleres del Gran Valle, in the Manduriaco region.
DECOIN, meanwhile, is in the process of trying to get both of these communities phone systems so they can communicate with the rest of the world and keep us informed of any threat by the miners.
The phone project is just one of many activities we are involved with. One of our most important ones is continuing to work closely with the local Community Development Council, giving them all the aid and support they need in order to carry out their activities. Our environmental education programs continues with the different communities, now expanded to the Cuellaje area. We are planning several major events to keep presenting the local population with correct information on the real impacts of industrial mining, and to try and counter the nasty anti-Decoin campaign undertaken by Ascendant (and which includes an incredibly slanderous web page specifically made to target Decoin and some of its key members). We will keep supporting and funding the legal costs for the activists who have been sued by the mining company, and are helping the colleague who was attacked by bodyguards working for a pro-mining leader at a public meeting this past October. In fact, just recently a very powerful U.S. based organization has offered to help us strengthen our legal initiatives overseas and in Ecuador. This comes at a time, when we are working with CDES- a Quito-based human rights legal group who is helping us and the communities defend against the outrageous legal abused of the courts by Ascendant. CDES will also take the case to the Interamerican Human Rights Commission in the near future.
In short, we will keep doing all it takes to support the communities and to STOP ASCENDANT, at every level and with all we have.
We hope to be able to keep counting with your support.