One More Nail In Ascendant’s Coffin:
28 Septembre 2006
Provincial Government Says NO to Mining
‘The [Imbabura] Provincial Government yeterday resolved to ask the Ministry of Energy and Mines to suspend exploration of the mining project granted by the State to the Canadian mining company, ‘Ascendant Copper’, in the Junin community’. These are the title and leading paragraph to a story on today’s La Hora newspaper reporting on the latest rejection to Ascendant´s plan to develop its Junin mining poject.
We always knew it was a well nailed coffin that enclosed Ascendant’s corpse here in Intag, but we also felt there was room for more nails to secure the lid in case the company wanted to come back from the dead. Today, that nail came in the way of a clear NO TO THE JUNIN MINING PROJECT pronunciation from the government of Imbabura Province, where the Junin mining project is situated.
The anti-mining stance coming from the provincial government makes the rejection by all local governments having jurisdiction over the Junin mining project unanimous. It comes at time when the opposition is not only growing, but quickly spreading to other sectors of Imbabura’s civil society, most notably indigenous groups, and university students.
Part of the growing rejection to Ascendant Copper and the subsequent support for the community’s resistance to the mining project could be attributed to the latest confrontations and violence that took place in the Junin area during September 12-16, in which two company employees were held by community members, and two campesinos illegally arrested and jailed. In addition, the company’s failed intent to forcibly gain entry into the Junin community on the 13th of September, and the violent confrontation it provoked is widely felt to be the company’s fault.
In this respect, the Province’s highest elected representative had this to say: “We are forced to protect the interests of the people. The conflicts that took place in the past few months in the Intag region, due to the development of the project, cannot be ignored by the Provincial Government [Corporation], and on the contrary, we feel it is timely to emit our criteria to safeguard the interests of the majority of the community”, said Gustavo Pareja, Prefect [of Imbabura].
An important contributing factor that worked to tip the balance against the company in Imbabura province was the gross use of the courts by the company to try and silence the opposition, by levelling false charges against dozens men and women small-farmers from the Junin and Cerro Pelado area. Not only are people being accused of kidnapping, but of robbery, attempted homicide; assault; illicit association (whatever that is!). Ascendant Copper Corporation, and/or its employees, have currently filed four criminal lawsuits against 25 campesinos and campesinas (most of these persons, according to the information on Ascendant’s Environmental Impact Study, make less than $ 200 a month. By comparison, Gary Davis, Ascendant’s President and CEO, makes approximately 90 times this amount)
To better illustrate the perverse use of the judicial system by the company or its employees: seven Ascendant Corporation employees charged two Ministry of the Environment employees, who themselves were savagely attacked while passing by a pro-mining crowd in Chalguayacu Alto, of assaulting them (at this crowd there were many company employees). Yes, the seven Ascendant employees are saying that they were assaulted by the two Ministry of Environment employees. We are certain the lawsuit was presented to dissuade the government employees from themselves filing charges against the aggressors or the company. In another of the lawsuits, the company charged activists who were miles away when the cirmes were suppossedly committed; seemingly as part of a pre-arranged plan to try to silence the most anti-mining leaders.
Site of Today’s Newspaper article: http://www.lahora.com.ec/frontEnd/main.php?idSeccion=480921