Intag Marred by Violence

By , September 14, 2006
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Update 13 September

Yesterday, September 12 a group of six persons identified as Ascendant Copper Corporation employees by Junin community members were found inside Junin’s forest reserve without authorization. First reports tell of a confrontation between the two sides, and the six alleged employees fleeing to the forest. The call went out and up to 70 community members pursued the group, catching up with four of them. There are reports that one of the two that escaped was armed with a pistol, and threatened a campesina from the community of Barcelona. All involved went to the Community of Junin, where two of the four were ordered to leave the community. The two remaining at this moment are reportedly in the general vicinity of Junin and are believed to be employees of Ascendant Copper, or one of its contractors.

Police immediately reacted to the situation, and were able to travel in several Ascendant Copper Corporation vehicles to different sites within Intag. One of those patrols arrested two colleagues who were travelling in a motorcycle far away from the scene of the confrontation. No reason was given by the police for the arrest.

Unfortunately, this afternoon a violent confrontation took place between a pro-mining group and a community group when this first group tried to force their way into what they consider to be company property with bedding, tents and other utensils. The community group was able to repel the invading group, and there are reports of some minor injuries- mostly on the pro-mining side. Several eyewitnesses reported that the confrontation took place in front of a large group of police, and that the police presence is quite large in the Chalguayacu Alto area.

There are also reports that two Ministry of the Environment employee was assaulted by pro-mining forces in the area of Chalguayacu Alto. Apparently the crowd identified the employees with the majority who reject mining in Intag. Radio Intag broadcasted that these employees were being held by the Chalguayacu Alto crowd against their will.

As of tonight, there is a large police contingency in Chalguayacu Alto, as well as dozens of Intag residents in favor of mining. Community members are filtering into Junin to support the community, and tomorrow a regional assembly is being organized by the newly created Coordinadora Zonal, made up of Intag’s local governments, organizations and communities, to find out the best way the rest of the Intag can best support the communities and find a peaceful solution to this latest conflict. Two of the four persons identified as company employees are still in the Junin area, just as pro-mining forces are gathering in Chalguayacu Alto. A delegation made up of three Parish government presidents went into Junin this afternoon to try to act as mediators and try to prevent more violence. However, at the same time we received reports, from reliable sources, that the government was considering sending in the equivalent of a SWAT team to try and rescue the two possible employees who, as far as DECOIN knows, are not being held against their will.

If you want to send a fax to Ecuador’s president asking him to find a peaceful solution to this very difficult and dangerous situation, please see below.

DECOIN

model letter- please personalize

The president’s fax is: 593 2 258 0714

Doctor Alfredo Palacios
Presidente Constitucional República del Ecuador
Palacio Presidencial
Plaza de la Independencia
Quito, Ecuador

September 14 2006

SUBJECT: MINING IN INTAG

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to express my concern of the threats that the Junín mining project poses to the people and environment in the Intag area of Cotacachi County, and of the recent troubling developments.

We have received reports of a grave escalation of the conflicts brought about by, what we are told, was the presence of persons identified as workers of the Mining company in lands belonging to the community of Junin. We understand there has been a violent confrontation, and urge you to do all that is possible to find a peaceful solution to this latest crisis. There can be no legitimate reason for a mining company, who has repeatedly been told they were not wanted in the area, to be in community lands unless it was to provoke a violent reaction by the communities. We are also very concerned by reliable reports that tell of the police being transported in company vehicles to different areas within Intag, and that two Intag residents were arrested without warrant or probable cause, and transported in Ascendant Copper Corporation vehicles to the police station in Ibarra. Another troubling development reported by international obervers in the Junin area is over the presence of apparently para-military personel, who were of late seen in the area, and who were identified as working with, or supporting the mining companya factor that complicates an already complicated situation, and one that is likely in violation of international treaties and national legislation.

I sincerely hope that your government is able to lauch a full-scale investigation to try to clear up these, and other troubling news recently coming out of the Intag area.

I likewise urge you to analyze carefully the long-term implications of this project to the forests of the Toisan Range, for the local communities, county of Cotacachi, and the area’s natural resources, and in general, to your country. I also support a complete investigation of the numerous human-rights violations people from communities in the Intag area have complained about as a consequence of the presence of mining companies in their territory and which have been documented by CEDHU (Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos)

Sincerely,

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