Communities in Intag Take Direct Measures Against Ascendant’s Mining Facilities.
Saturday, 10 December 2005
Over three hundred community members from approximately 20 communities in the Intag area of Ecuador gathered together at the village of Chalguayacu Bajo in a community Assembly, and voted unanimously to burn down the facilities belonging to Ascendant Copper Corporation, as a show of protest for the company’s presence in the area. The decision was taken in a democratic and participatory manner in an Assembly organized by the Community Development Council to change the Council’s board.
NO ONE WAS HURT.
In spite of the first distorted version of the event coming from company employees, no one was hurt, and company employees were allowed to take out valuables before the building was set on fire. However, later in the day 20 heavily armed policemen in bullet-proof vests arrived at the scene to investigate a report saying there had been four dead and six injured in the storming and torching of the building. They left after confirming the report was completely untrue.
The facilities consisted of a building used in what was supposed to be a center for agricultural experiments in Ascendants self-described model farm, but which communities saw more as the company’s base in Intag and as a permanent source of aggravation.
CONFISCATION OF ASCENDANT LAND
Besides the resolution calling for the destruction of the Ascendant infrastructure, the Assembly also decided unanimously for communities to start occupying land formerly belonging to the Ascendant Copper Corporation for distribution to landless people or those with little land.
DECOIN does not condone violence. Yet, it is essential to understand at least part of the context that generated this reaction. The events of today come after 18 months of aggravated assaults, intimidations, death threats, lawsuits, road blockades, violent aggressions against the Cotacachi Municipal government, and many other measures carried out against anyone opposing the Ascendant Copper Corporation’s Junín mining project. It comes after a horrible division of communities in Intag that did not exist here before Ascendant’s presence. On countless occasions, the communities warned the company not to go into their communities, and to respect their decision to live in peace and free of mining. But it was all to no avail.
The patience of the communities came to an end when they kept seeing the mining company buying land all around their communities. This action triggered a land invasion by traffickers wanting to sell the newly acquired land to the company at outrageously high prices, and resulted in the company owning thousands of hectares of land in the Intag area. Some of this illegally begotten land allegedly includes hundreds of hectares belonging to the Junín community reserve, which they’ve managed as a part of their community ecological tourism project since 1998. In some other cases, land titles were given on land already having owners who are opposed to the mining project. Unfortunately, this land-purchasing program has not stopped.
This news was relayed to us by eye-witnesses at the site. No one from DECOIN was present in Chalguayacu Bajo.
Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag