INTAG UPDATE

By , May 28, 2005
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Parish Government Decides to Reject Mining
Ascendant’s EIA company comes to visit
Junin says: Nice to meet you, but please leave!
DECOIN meets Whistler; at last!
Canada trip and the OECD complaint against Ascendant Copper Corporation
Documentary Completed
Municipality Launches Another Legal Challenge to the Mining Concessions in Intag
Legal Defense in the USA
What next?

It’s been a busy month. And one not so great for Ascendant Copper Corporation or any of the Ascendant clones.

Parish Government Decides to Reject Mining
28 May: Just got off the phone talking to friends from Cuellaje Parish Township who told me the Parish Assembly took a resolution to not allow mining in their Parish (Ascendant has a concession in this Parish). According to my friend who was there, about 350 people from all the communities in the township government, in addition to representatives from different organizations, showed up to this very important and annual event. He said that about 98% of the people voted for the anti-mining resolution! One thing he noted, however, was that some of Ascendant’s followers tried unsuccessfully to derail the discussion and resolution, and were carrying out the same old repetitive anti-Decoin smear campaign, openly criticizing DECOIN for not doing anything in Intag and of stealing funds (Codegam and some Ascendant followers have been doing this since Ascendant’s coming to Intag). Funny no one questioned what Ascendant or Codegam has done with the stockholders investments during the past 12 months in Intag! Andrade, CODEGAM’s president has, meanwhile, been on a non-stop mission to badmouth Decoin and our Mayor very chance he gets, including on several Otavalo and Ibarra radio stations, and newspaper (it’s clear that they feel they have to destroy us to achieve their aim; boy are they totally wrong!. In any case, we see Cuellaje’s resolution as yet another, big, nail in Ascendant’s coffin.

Ascendant’s EIA company comes to visit
26 May: Representatives from Junín meet with two representatives from Whistler, the company hired by Ascendant to do the Environmental Impact Study (EIA) for the exploration. About 40 members of the community met them at a community road control and told them a few things. One, that since the community had never been consulted, they consider the mining concession illegal, thus no environmental impact study would be allowed by the community. Two, they reiterated that the community was totally and firmly opposed to mining. And three, to please go away. They did warn them that if community members found Whistler employees in the Junín reserve, they would be forcefully “relocated”. Given that these two same individuals met with DECOIN and community representatives in Apuela a few days earlier and pledged to not go into communities unless they were welcomed, we can safely say that no EIA will take place. Ever. (The EIA is legally required before exploration activities can take place). It would be a unforgivable mistake for them to go back on their word when it was publicly given to dozens of community representatives.

Junin says: Nice to meet you, but please leave!
That same day, Ascendant’s new Intag representative rolled into Chalguayacu Bajo to talk to Polibio Perez (community activist living close to Junín), and sat and talked for quite a while. He told Polibio a few things which give the impression that the Ascendant mining company is starting to realize the gross mismanagement their employees and representatives have involved in Intag. This representative claimed he was replacing General Cesar Villacis and that another of Ascendant’s representative in Intag would likewise be replace. We have not confirmed this to date.

He said he would be firing or finding new work for all guards at their “model farm” in Chalguayacu Bajo”; that there would be no more bodyguards and that all contracts and agreements made by Villacis would be revised and some probably cancelled. He seemed to be shocked at what few social projects Ascendant had really developed in Intag. He also was, or pretended to be, frank about the real mining employment potential of the mine and stated no more than 500 people would ever be employed, in comparison to the 2,000 Villacis was managing. According to Polibio, he could hardly believe at all the instances of death threats, intimidation and physical and verbal violence Ascendant or Codegam’s employees had been involved in, and offered the aggressive tactics would end immediately. He also said that if the communities genuinely were opposed to the project, they would not forcefully continue. However, we also believe there is a power struggle going on within Ascendant and anything could happen regarding Villaces.

We hope this new person and attitude is sincere. But as we say here in Ecuador, it could be the same drunk with a new suit. Time will tell.

DECOIN meets Whistler; at last!
Apuela 22 May: When the two aforementioned Whistler representatives approached DECOIN for a meeting this past Sunday at 9:30 am, by 10 am we had a room full of folks, including the representatives from 8 different communities- seven of them from near the mining area-, the Parish Government Association president, and several organizations (about 30 people in all). They explained what they were doing and that they were really working for Ascendant, since this is where the $$ came from. They wanted to know people’s position on the mining issue, and it seemed obvious that they were very interested to know how strong DECOIN really was (all present supported DECOIN and identified themselves as members). One of Whistler’s representative was a Mexican living in Canada and working for a company doing similar work as Whistler (he supposedly was an expert in conflict resolution).

It was a very, very interesting meeting where all eight community presidents, including three of the four communities slated for relocation, told them that they were opposed to the mining project. The Whistler people publicly stated that they would only go into the area if they were allowed to by the communities. If they respect this, it means no Environmental Impact Statement, thus no exploration and no mining will take place.

Some people took the opportunity to denounce Ascendant and Codegam for all the violence and aggressiveness some of their representatives have been responsible for. Jose Garzon, president of the Association of Parish Governments of Cotacachi County denounced the latest violence by, apparently, one of Ronald Andrade’s bodyguards against a resident of Cuellaje, where Mr Garzon is from. According to eyewitness reports, he bodyguard hit an individual in the face and threatened him with a gun for protesting verbally Andrade’s presence in the area. This had taken place a day or two before the Apuela meeting.

It ended with people reiterating their opposition to mining, and the reasons why. When we asked which of the eight community presidents would want Whistler to go into their community, no one raised their hands. It would be fascinating to read the report that will reach Ascendant’s chiefs.

Canada trip and the OECD complaint against Ascendant Copper Corporation
15-20 May: Carlos went to Canada for a few days to present an official claim against Ascendant to the Canadian National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, for breaching the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). Actually, Mayor Auki Tituana and Polibio Perez were also supposed to have accompanied Carlos, but they were unable to obtain a visa on time (even after we had a member of Parliament write a letter to the embassy in Quito asking to expedite it). DECOIN joined with Friends of Earth Canada and Mining Watch Canada in the 14 page claim which details the breeches of the guidelines we fell Ascendant Copper Corporation violated. At that meeting, we also met with the Foreign Relation representative, and he also received an earful of our grievances concerning Ascendant’s actions in Intag and Cotacachi; including their funding the creation of a new local government, and human rights violations.

Afterwards, we also visited with the representatives of the Ontario Securities Exchange to alert them of the possibility of Ascendant trying to list their company on the Toronto Stock Exchange. We gave the reps of the OSC a copy of the claim, and our Canadian colleagues agreed to keep monitoring the situation and keep presenting new documents if necessary.

Later in the week we met with Nawdeep Singh Bains, parliamentarian from the liberal party of the Canadian federal government and head of the Human Rights commission. We shared the information on Ascendant and the claim we had presented, and asked for, and received his willingness to investigate the company’s alleged human rights abuses in Intag.

Sometime during the short stay I met with 3 newspaper reporters, interviewed live by a radio station (Spanish), plus a magazine editor (Corporate Knights). That I know of, two newspaper articles came of it (latino papers). This was in addition to at least four meetings with local latino groups living in Toronto and Ottawa; meeting with Sierra Legal Fund representatives, and CELA, another Canadian environmental legal organization, plus a couple of meetings with law students volunteering their time on this particular case- AND a documentary movie producer (maker of an excellent documentary on a Canadian petro company working in Ecuador titled: Entre Gallos y la Media Noche). Oh, also a 2 hour talk-discussion at Toronto University. I think it was very fruitful, and not a bit hectic:)!

Documentary Completed
Almost forgot to tell that I was able to take a 14 minute documentary put together at the last moment just for this trip by two international peace volunteers (Charlie and Rebecca), and Joel, which showed some great interviews of some of the community people opposed to the mine, and included shots of our Mayor and Polibio, plus some nice shots of the forests and rivers. It was great to have the movie, and definitely helped people understand what the struggle is about (it is subtitled in English, and available for $ 20.00 per DVD, and includes shipping. Profits will go for producing more documentaries).
Friends of Earth Canada and Mining Watch Canada did an outstanding job of working for months on the claim and setting up all meetings with government and non-government groups and individuals. This important initiative would have been impossible without the help of an individual who truly believes in our struggle and who was responsible for funding all this work in Canada. The work, by the way continues, since several persons are currently employed in Ottawa, including a lawyer, to keep the heat on Ascendant, and continue with the follow up.

Municipality Launches Another Legal Challenge to the Mining Concessions in Intag
Meanwhile, 20 May, Ecuador holds its first Environmental Assembly to determine certain environmental policies the new government should embark on. Several folks from DECOIN and the affected communities were there, along with around 350 other people from all over Ecuador. Among the resolutions taken: Declare Ecuador in an Environmental Emergency, and certain other areas in particular, including, Intag, and Galapagos; declare a moratorium on new extractive industry concessions until the State guarantees a new model use of non-renewable natural resources; investigate mining, petroleum and other natural resources concession of the past 10 or so years (in all, excellent resolutions to protect communities and the environment)

Legal Defense in the USA
The nice person at Environmental Defender Law Center, an organization that finds US law firms to donate time and energy to defending people or causes like ours, hooked us up with a international, and very prestigious, law firm, Heller Erhman. DECOIN has been in contact with four of its hundreds attorneys who are doing the pro-bono representing DECOIN! So far their work has been very important, though perhapst not as visible, as some of the other stuff we’ve been up to.

Latest Legal process: Early May, CDES, based in Quito, together with the Cotacachi County government presented yet another legal challenge questioning the legality of Ascendant’s mining concessions. The lawsuit was presented to the equivalent of an administrative court, which has jurisdiction over governmental administrative decisions. A ruling from the court if it finds irregularities or violations of legal procedures in the adjudication of Ascendant’s mining concessions in Intag, will invalidate all of the company’s concessions.

There’s actually more to report on, but we’ll save for another end.

I want to say that we just could never have gotten this far without all the fantastic people who so selflessly give up so much of their time.

TO ALL OF YOU A BIG THANK YOU FROM THE COMMUNITIES AND DECOIN

What next?
We’ll be working on a number of things, including another short documentary on the mining struggle, finding ways to expand the door-to-door visits to different communities by members of affected communities; looking to keep funding the Community Development Council’s work; maybe looking into repeating the trip to Canada with the Mayor and Polibio; hiring Ecuadorian lawyers to work on the recent legal challenge, and instigate other legal initiatives (state secret for now)- this is a principal priority for us at the moment.

And, well, hell, there a million other things that need to or should be done, not least of which is press work (we are falling behind); and more environmental education. It’s pretty intimidating when I think about it, but at the same time, it all seems to be working: after 12 months of Ascendant’s presence in Intag, the opposition is stronger and much more widespread than ever.

Don’t be shy if you want to continuing donating to the struggle. Get in touch.

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