16 oct new update; Imbabura Govn’t : Stop Exploration, and INTAG COMMUNITIES IN IMMINENT DANGER

By , October 9, 2006

Mining camp arson suspect NOT GUILTY/acusados por incendio de campamento: Sobreseídos
Provincial Gov’t NO TO MINING
Lower Court’s Decision Imperils Communities and Collective Rights in Ecuador
Musical Chairs with Ecuador’s Managers

16 oct- GREAT NEWS. The judge declared the 5 accused for the burning of Ascendant mining camp NOT GUILTY. I haven’t yet read the sentence, but I assume due to lack of evidence.

Acabamos de enterarnos que que los 5 imputados por el incendio del campamento minero de Ascendant Copper fueron sobreseídos por el Juez de Ibarra. Ganamos Carajo!! Es posible que Ascendant apele, pero es clave haber ganado en primera instancia!

On October 10th the Provincial government of Imbabura made its decision public regarding Ascendant’s plat to explore its Junin mining concessions in the province’s main newspaper: It asked the government to STOP ALL OF ASCENDANT’S EXPLORATION AND EXPLOITATION activities in the Province. With this decision, every single local government having jurisdiction over the Junin mining project has said no to the project. It is now only a matter of time for Ascendant who runs the risk of provoking a stronger reaction from government officials if it ignores these decisions.

12 oct: We just heard that Ascendant has Again replaced their general manager in Ecuador. Juan Carlos Bermeo was replaced by Francisco Ventimilla, who has a business carrying out environmental audits and impact statements for companies like Ascendant! How long with Mr. Ventimilla last? And, was Bermeo made to resign because of the violence he is alleged to have provoked on the 13th of September in the Junin area? Or because of the rumors that the company had paid $15 a day for people to gather in Chalguayacu Alto to try to invade Junin and support Ascendant? Some of these people- some who work for Ascendant- were involved in a very violent incident against two Ministry of the Environment Employees on the 13th.

On October 4th, a Judge in Cotacachi turned down the constitutional injunction filed by the community of Junin on August 25th to stop government approval of Ascendant Copper Corporation’s Environmental Impact Study. The community had argued that the government violated the Constitution by allowing the company to complete its Terms of Reference and EIA in violation of the community’s right to previous consultation. Incredibly, the Judge argued that the consultation had been carried out by Ascendant when it socialized its Study in two localities in Intag. However, article 88 of the Constitution affirms that it is the responsibility of the State to consult with the communities before it takes an administrative action that might impact a community’s social and natural environment. To date, 2.5 years after the concessions were granted to Ascendant, the government has not complied with this fundamental constitutional right. The case was appelaed and went to the Constitutional Tribunal.

It’s worth noting that what Ascendant did was set up two offices in Intag- both very distant from directly affected communities, and had a copy of it’s EIA and Terms of Reference for campesinos to study, and then sign a piece of paper, after which they received a T-shirt, a pen or a red baseball cap with Ascendant embroidered on it. Most of Intag’s population only has a 6th-grade education (equivalent to, at the most, 4th grade in the US), and less than 10% go on to high school- yet they were expected to study a 400-page extremely technical document, and sign a piece of paper saying they read the document. This is what the judge considered to be previous consultation, in spite of the fact that no information was given regarding the potential negative social and environmental impacts of the mining project!

If this unbelievable and unconstitutional decision is upheld in the nations’s Constitutional Tribunal, it could set a very dangerous precedent for other mining projects in Ecuador, allowing mining companies to “previously consult” with the affected communities, without any State oversight, and obviously manipulating local communities with gifts, and half-truths.

The president of Junin has vowed to appeal the case and take this new constitutional violation to the Interamerican Human Rights Commission and Court if need be to force the government to respect their right to previous consultation.


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