DECOIN recently uncovered proof that Ascendant Copper Corporation’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) was undertaken without the approval or knowledge of governmental mining authorities, and violating other legal procedures.
On January 3rd, the company announced that the EIS was going to be submitted to communities and the government for discussion, and following a 30 days public comment period, it would be turned over to mining authorities for final approval. Turns out they were wrong. Very wrong.
In fact, Terrambiente, the consulting firm hired by Ascendant to supposedly undertake and socialized the EIS, had to first count with a set of Terms of References approved by the Ministry of Energy and Mines before preparing the EIS. However, on a letter dated 10th of April, Ministry officials admitted that the Terms of Reference had NOT been approved, and that they didn’t even know anything was being “socialized” in Intag.
Only after the Terms of Reference are approved, and after being sufficiently socialized with the communities and authorities within the mining area, then can Terrambiente proceed to carry out the EIS. You can’t do the EIA, and then work on the Terms of References (TDRs). At least not legally.
After the TDRs are approved and the EIS finished (could take many months), it will then be necessary for it to be socialized all over again with the local authorities and communities. Then, and only then, will the EIS be ready for submission to the Ministry of Energy and Mines for approval. Let’s put it this way: given that all local authorities and most communities are virulently opposed to the mining project – including Parish and the Municipal governments, as well as just about every single NGO working in this County- a snowball in hell has a better chance of making it!
What happened to Whistler Anyway??? On a related note, we were left wondering what happened to Whistler, the consulting firm originally hired to undertake the Environmental Impact Statement, and when how/when did Terrambiente come into the picture? That was a lot of money invested in Whistler, and the company seems to have kept real quiet about Whistler’s destiny. Did anyone out there hear that the company disassociated itself from Whistler because of conflict of interests issues? A while back, if you recall, we denounced that one of Whistler’s employee, or perhaps even a partner, also owned a part of the smelting royalties for the Junin project. Who would have guessed? It seems this unusual conflict of interest was too much even for Ascendant.
On March 17th, the Nation’s Comptroller General made public a resolution reminding all public officials that the community’s right to prior consultation must be respected, as stipulated in Article 88 of Ecuador’s Constitution. It observed that if this right is violated, it would annul any decision taken by governmental authorities- including those involving contracts.
The mining concessions held by Ascendant Copper Corporation were granted without previously consulting with the communities in Intag, and would therefore be subject to annulment. This is a premise held and supported by most communities and local governments opposing the mining project, but especially by Cotacachi County’s Mayor, who has said from the beginning the concessions are illegal.
ON THE GROUND. Daimi Services has certainly been busy hiring people in Intag lately. We are told that many are essentially being paid do nothing much. Rumors abound that more than a few are paid informers, and that Daimi is preferring to hire people from Junin- at significantly higher pay than others. They have resumed where CODEGAM had left off, offering communities stuff. However, in the community of Barcelona, community members rejected the offers from Daimi to donate a computer and school supplies and told the teacher she could take the garbage (and…) home!! , but that stuff from the company would not be allowed in the school! For some reason, they haven’t even tried offering roads, clinics, computer or bridges in Junin. Maybe they know what the response would be. Some people are interpreting this as bribing, or conscience purchasing. You just wonder who the hell is the genius who thinks that by throwing enough money around that sooner or later people will “come around” to loving mining. Anyway, teachers can always use computers in their own home. And, if there’s anyone out there wanting to support Barcelona’s decision and buy them a computer for the school – without strings attached – get in touch with us.
NEW OBSERVERS: A new group of enthusiastic international observers are in Barcelona, Cerro Pelado and El Triunfo, as well as in Junin, the communities most at risk by the mining project. Some will be staying for months at a time, others for as long as a year. All are dedicated to recording any human-rights violations, and supporting the work of the communities. This was all made possible by the support of the Intag Solidarity Network (www.intagsolidarity.org).
Yesterday we received a report that about 40 community members (mostly women) from the communities of Chalguayacu Alto, Chalguayacu Bajo and Junin, forced about 12 Ascendant Copper Corporations workers, and/or employees working for one of its contractors (Daimi Services), to leave an area down river from the community of Junin, as the employees were apparently taking river water samples without Junins permission.
The person reporting this latest provocation said that when community members asked the intruders to leave, they refused, and a scuffle ensued in which at least one of the intruders might have received minor injuries. However, no one was seriously hurt, and there were no arrests, our eye-witness source informed us.
This latest and unfortunate confrontation is the just one more in a series of provocations that have dramatically increased since the presence of the company contracted by Ascendant Copper Corporation to supposedly socializeits supposedEnvironmental Impact Study, and obtain the social license from the people of Intag for the Junin mining project. Instead, social conflicts have increased, along with provocations, and divisive tactics.
As informed earlier, Daimi employees have been linked to the hiring of dozens of people from several communities, and it turned out that the Environmental Impact Study that was being socializedwas prepared without the necessary Terms of References having been previously approved by the Ministry of Energy and Mines. Its clear to us that there was something else behind the so-called socialization program, and the obtaining of the social license.
Above and beyond other ramifications of this latest and spontaneous collective actions by the communities aimed at protecting their rights and have their decision regarding mining respected, it goes a long ways to show that the people of Intag, and specially those surrounding the mining site, are as determined as ever to take any measure to protect their communities from the debacle that is industrial mining.
Friends of the Earth & MiningWatch launch “No Means No to Ascendant Copper in Ecuador” campaign
Communities Call for Cancellation of Canadian Mining Company’s Concessions in Ecuador
(Ottawa, May 3, 2006) A new campaign launched today by Friends of the Earth Canada and MiningWatch Canada is focused on informing investors and potential investors in Vancouver-based Ascendant Copper (listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange) of the true depth of community resistance and irregularities with respect to the company’s Junín project in northwest Ecuador.
The “No Means No to Ascendant Copper in Ecuador” campaign begins one day prior to Ascendant’s annual general meeting (May 4, 2006) in Vancouver.
The organizations have released a new documentary film on the subject, “The Curse of Copper” which can be viewed at www.ascendantalert.ca. Also released is official correspondence related to the communities’ effort to enforce local environmental laws.
“The Intag cloud forest is blessed with some of the most important biodiversity on the planet. So properly, the communities of the Intag took the important democratic step of proclaiming their area an ecological county,” observed Beatrice Olivastri, Chief Executive Officer of Friends of the Earth Canada. “To enforce this ordinance, they’re insisting that all mining and prospecting arrangements located in the Intag be cancelled and are proceeding with legal steps to accomplish this. It is the height of arrogance to think that Ascendant, a Canadian junior mining company, believes it can ignore or can bypass this significant environmental law. What part of ‘no’ does Ascendant not understand?”
The information Ascendant provides for the public and shareholders on its website is inconsistent with the official correspondence made public today, issued by elected local representatives of the Intag to the Ecuadorian Minister of Energy and Mining, reaffirming their rejection of the Junín mining project and highlighting grave irregularities in Ascendant’s development process.
“Ascendant shareholders-and anyone concerned with proper disclosure and fair play in the market-should pay close attention to what Ascendant management is telling them and what is really going on,” said MiningWatch Canada spokesperson Jamie Kneen.
Carlos Zorrilla, Executive Director of DECOIN, Ecuador, added “The Canadian government is about to embark on a series of Roundtable hearings on the need to regulate the activities of Canadian mining companies overseas – and here is a perfect example of this need, given that alleged violations by Ascendant Copper have already been documented in complaints to the Ontario Securities Commission and the Canadian government.”
For additional information please contact:
Beatrice Olivastri, Friends of the Earth, (613) 241-0085 ext. 26; cell (613) 724-8690
Jamie Kneen or Joan Kuyek, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 569-3439
Carlos Zorrilla, DECOIN, ++593 6 2648509
Get the facts – view the film “The Curse of Copper” at www.ascendantalert.ca
Copies of the correspondence cited above can be obtained at www.foecanada.org
The Intag region of Cotacachi County in the province of Imbabura, is part of both the Choco and Ecuadorian Andes biodiversity hotspots. Cloud forests like that of Intag are among the most endangered ecosystems on the planet-down to less than 10 percent of their original extent, mostly destroyed in the past 40 years-and also contain exceptionally large numbers of plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world.