Ascending Bull: THIN-AIR EIA’s

By , January 29, 2006
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Ascendant claimed, on a January 3rd news release, that it had completed its Environmental Impact Statement for the Junin project, and that it was “socializing it with the communities”. For this work and for supposedly getting the necessary “social licence”, it said, it had hired a Canadian and an Ecuadorian firm. In Ecuador, this is DAIMI Services (Ecuador). DECOIN is not sure what Ascendant is socializing. If it’s a Environmental Impact Assessment, it couldn’t be for the Junin site, since no one from Ascendant or any third party hired by Ascendant has been able to be into the mining site to do any studies. You can’t do a legal EIA without some factual, on-the-field data gathering. Not even in Ecuador. Furthermore, for the Thin Air Study (cheap!!) they are claiming to be using earlier information. This could only mean they are referring to the 1996 Japanese EIA, which they themselves have discredited on a number of occasions, and the same one they asked the Ministry of the Environment to declare null this past October!! Really, I am not making this up!

WHISTLING AWAY. Meanwhile, Whistler, the company that Ascendant had initially hired to do the EIA, was found to have on its board or payroll someone owning part of Junin’s smelting royalty rights (this would be Mr. Leslie Smith). Any work Whistler did for Ascendant, therefore, would be invalidated here and anywhere else in the world for conflict of interests issues.

SOCIALIZING WHAT? As to the “socializing” of the made-up-from-thin-air EIA and obtaining the social license, perhaps Ascendant should also have looked a little bit more into DAIMI. This same public relations company was kicked out of the Sarayaku Kichwa community in Ecuador’s Amazon, and equally rejected by Huarani indigenous tribe for unethical activities. We are getting reports that they are going around Intag telling people that they don’t really work for Ascendant, but for the Ministry of Energy and Mines. Someone appears to by lying. I bet you can ascertain who.

ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION. In a interesting, and very hopeful, recent development, this past Friday Ecuador’s Congressional Civic Anti-Corruption Commission asked the Ministry of the Environment to revoke Petrobras’ environmental licence for its planned petroleum exploration work in the Amazon. This same Anti-Corruption Commission is currently investigating possible illegalities connected to mining activities in Intag and Junin- and, needless to say- this includes Ascendant.

PULLING OUT OF THE OECD. This January we pulled out of our May 2004 complaint to the OECD(organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). We had charged that some of Ascendant’s behavior had breached the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. In essence, we felt that Canadian government officials in charge of our complaint mishandled a January 26 meeting with all the stakeholders involved (Decoin, Friends of Earth, Mining Watch Canada, Canadian government officials, Ascendant and the Ministry of Energy and Mines). We had requested the right to tape the proceedings to safeguard against possible misrepresentation by anyone, but they flatly refused. This was also a condition we had agreed to with the communities for the meeting. In light of the way Ascendant has been handling some of the information, we were not going to go into the meeting without a way to record was said.

LAWSUIT. The lawsuit against the 24 community members falsely accused of theft and aggravated assault in connection with the torching of Ascendant’s camp in Chalguayacu Bajo this past December is at a standstill. Some of Ascendant’s workers have come up with some very colorful declarations, but not much proof. One of the declarations has me down as the brains behind the torching. What an insult to the communities! We feel confident any decent prosecutor will throw the case out. CEDHU, the Quito-based human rights organization, has officially committed its full support to help defend the accused.

THE 30% DROP. The latest from Ascendant has its share price at $ 1.20 per share this past week; down 30% from its initial offering of $ 1.70 (for a loss of between 10 and 15 million dollars of the stock’s value).

DECOIN wants again to thank all the individuals who are helping fund the legal defense and advocacy work in favor of the accused, our communities and our land. We couldn’t do it without you.

Carlos Zorrilla

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