Community Leader Implicates Ascendant in Death Threats/ Ascendant’s Troubles in Ecuador

By , July 11, 2007
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COMMUNITY LEADER IMPLICATES ASCENDANT COPPER IN DEATH THREATS

Polibio Perez, president of the Community Development Council, asked the District Attorney of Imbabura Province that Ascendant Copper Corporations employees be investigated in conjunction to the death threats he has received during the past few months.

Mr. Perez suspects that the death threats emanate from Jorge Mantilla, CEO of Falericorp, a company contracted by Ascendant Copper Corporation in 2006, and Fernando Alba- also believed to be presently working for Falericorp. Mr. Alba and Mantilla have been seen in the Intag area in the past few weeks (Mr. Alba may be working for Honor and Laurel, a international private security firm)

The charges in part arise from an anonymous email sent to Carlos Zorrilla by what is presumed to be an ex-Ascendant employee, in which the person says that he has heard that the two persons named above and those of Ascendant were planning on killing Mr. Perez.

In his charges presented to Imbaburas Attorney General, Mr. Polibio Perez also mentions that during the December 2006 violence against the communities, and afterwards, that he received several death threats and felt unusually threatened. He presented as proof video and photographic evidence of the violence created by the so-called paramilitary force allegedly working under the guidance of Falericorp, and Mr. Alba. This particular extremely violent incident against the communities was financed by Ascendant Copper Corporation, who had hired Falericorp.

In the legal denouncement Mr. Perez charged that at one time Mr. Alba threatened him by saying: if you continue your opposition to mining we are going to have to kill you

Mr. Perez together with his lawyer, Edgar Merlo, asked that the authorities investigate not only the persons named in the lawsuit, but that the investigation include all company employees from Falericorp and Ascendant Copper Corporation.

DECOIN

FALERICORP, its important to point out, was also involved in the violent incidents of November 2006 when another paramilitary force tried to violently make their way into Ascendant Copper Corporation mining concessions in the vicinity of Barcelona. Several small children were tear-gassed in this incident. As in the December violence, the community was able to stop the incursion.

LDER COMUNITARIO VINCULA A ASCENDANT COPPER EN AMENAZAS DE MUERTE

Polibio Prez, presidente del Consejo de Desarrollo Comunitario, le pidi al Fiscal Distrital de la provincia de Imbabura, que se le investigue a los empleados de Ascendant Copper Corporation en relacin a las amenazas de muerte que ha recibido durante los ltimos meses.

El Seor Prez sospecha que los responsables de las amenazas de muerte son los Seores Jorge Mantilla, Gerente General de Falericorp, una empresa contratada por Ascendant Copper Corporation in 2006, y el seor Fernando Alba. Existen reportes que se le ha visto a los seores Alba y Mantilla en la zona de Intag estas ltimas semanas.

En parte la denuncia nace de un correo annimamente enviado a Carlos Zorrilla de una fuente que se presume ser un ex empleado de Ascendant, en el cual la persona dice que ha escuchado que las dos personas arriba mencionadas, juntamente con los de Ascendant quera matar al Seor Prez

En las acusaciones presentadas al Fiscal Distrital de Imbabura el 7 de Julio del 2007, el Seor Polibio Prez tambin menciona que durante la violencia de Diciembre del 2006 perpetuado en contra de las comunidades, y posteriormente, que el recibi varias amenazas de muerte, y que se sinti excepcionalmente amenazado.

En la denuncia, el Seor Prez declara que en una ocasin fue amenazado por el Seor Alba, quien le dijo: si te sigues oponiendo a la minera vamos a tener que matarte

Juntamente con su abogado, el Doctor Edgar Merlo, le pidieron a las autoridades distrital que no solo investigue a las personas arriba nombradas, sino que las indagaciones incluya a todos los empleados de Falericorp y Ascendant Copper Corporation.

Cabe mencionar que Felericorp tambin se vio involucrado en los violentos incidentes de Noviembre del 2006, cuando un equipo paramilitar intent incursionar a la fuerza en las concesiones de Ascendant Copper, por el sector de Barcelona. En esta ocasin, varios nios fueron afectados por gases lacrimgenos. Al igual que la violencia de Diciembre, las comunidades frenaron la incursin.
DECOIN

Ascendant Copper Corporation and its Troubles in Ecuador

Ascendant Copper Corporation has launched an impressive public relations campaign in an effort to make light of very serious problems it is facing with its Junin mining project. These are the facts:

Validity of the concessions. No matter how much the company invests in public relations, the truth is that the legality of its mining concession in Ecuador is still very much undecided. True, in 2003 the Constitutional Tribunal rejected- by one vote- the injunction that sought to declare the concessions unconstitutional, but the Tribunal ruled only on a technicality, and left the constitutional question pending. (The Tribunal basically ruled that the government of Cotacachi had taken too long to present the injunction.)

The Constitution of Ecuador makes it mandatory for the state to consult with communities before it makes decisions that could impact the communities’ environment. Since this constitutional mandate was not observed prior to the government issuing the mining concessions, the concessions are unquestionably unconstitutional. It is only a matter of time before they are so declared.

STOP WORK ORDER. On December 19th, the company incorrectly told the public that the government had not ordered it to stop its activities within the Junin project concessions. Yet, the document from the Ministry of Energy and Mines dated December 8th 2006 plainly asked the company to stop its activities, until its Environmental Impact Study was approved, a process that could take many months or a year to complete.

It’s important to highlight that the Ministry did not limit the stop-work order to just mining activities. This drastic step was taken principally because of the environment of violence and terror generated when Ascendant Cooper’s contractor, Falericorp–financed by Ascendant Copper Corporation–hired armed personnel to force their way, with guns and tear gas, into Ascendant’s concessions. They were unsuccessful. Ascendant has falsely claimed Falericorp is an agricultural company; in reality it sells communication equipment. The use of armed thugs and violence turned the press and public against the company. It also shattered virtually all the support the company had within the government, Intag and the rest of the country.

LOCAL OPPOSITION. One of the most troubling aspects about Ascendant’s distortion of information is how it has kept from Canadian regulators and its investors the facts about the nature of the local opposition it faces. Ascendant has continually claimed that it is just a few radical people—“ecoterrorists” in their parlance–and mainly one local organization, DECOIN, that oppose its project. Yet every single Township government in the Intag region, both Cotacachi County and the Provincial governments, not to mention most communities within and adjacent to the company’s mining concessions, have publicly expressed their opposition to the mining project. This makes local government opposition unanimous, something seldom achieved in Ecuador’s history of resistance to mining. In addition, approximately 90% of the NGOs working in Intag and Cotacachi County (where the Junin project is located) also have expressed their opposition.

VIOLENCE. One of the central themes of the company’s misinformation campaign is to lay blame on anti-mining forces for the violence in Intag. It was the company, however, through its contractor Falericorp, that in November used tear gas against defenseless local people. It was also Ascendant that hired an army helicopter and financed the hiring of the armed military and ex-military personnel who tried unsuccessfully to storm the company’s concessions on December 2nd of this year. And it was pro-mining forces, allegedly led by several Ascendant employees, who, on the 6th of December 2006, threw stones, Molotov cocktails and burning tires and fired shots at a anti-mining group. These were directed at the Mayor of Cotacachi and the Governor of the province of Imbabura, who, together with journalists and a large anti-mining group, were trying to reach the community of Junin.

This violence came on top of the October 17th pre-dawn raid to the home of a well-known anti-mining activist by nineteen heavily armed police. The police came bearing arrest and search warrants as a result of completely trumped-up robbery charges made by someone supposedly working for Ascendant. They came in unmarked cars, some of which were identified as belonging to the company (see http://www.cedhu.org/html/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=360 for a human rights organization’s independent report on the police raid and the link to the company [in Spanish])

As a result of actions such as the above, national and international human rights bodies, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Global Witness, are looking into the violence and human rights violations affecting individuals and organizations opposed to Ascendant’s project in Intag.

Land purchases. Many of the properties Ascendant purchased around the Junin site are illegal, either because the company bought land that is supposed to be used exclusively for agricultural purposes, they lie within protected forests (Chontal), or because government entities illegally adjudicated state land within mining concessions. Already several land titles have been declared invalid in this area and the nation’s anti-corruption commission is currently looking further into corruption issues. Although DECOIN has been unable to confirm the persistent reports of kickbacks involving land deals, it is a very well known fact that Ascendant has paid up to 30 times the real worth of properties, and purchased some outside the mining concessions.

the Environmental Impact Study. Ascendant’s publicity news releases have repeatedly stated that the EIS was finished, had been presented to the government, and that approval was expected in a matter of weeks (in the company’s 2005 annual report it stated that it had completed the EIS, and that it would be submitted in April of 2005 [it is interesting, to say the least, that the Terms of Reference for the EIS was approved in June 2006!!]) Yet, in the June 2006 Financial Statement the company stated that the EIS had not yet been submitted. On December 8, 2006, the Ministry of Energy and Mines informed Ascendant’s Ecuador General Manager that their Junin Environmental Impact Study was so flawed that they were unable even to process it. They pointed out, among other things, that the company had not socialized its content with communities most at risk. The company, they stated, will have to comply with (tough newly created) regulations controlling the consultation process with the communities.

If done properly, an EIS can take months and hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete. With the change in government, there will be new officials in the Ministry of Energy and Mines who will be more stringent in seeking complete compliance. No more friends in High Places for the company. It is also certain that the new progressive government will annul many of the country’s mining concessions, granted after Ecuador’s 1998 Constitution came into effect, which requires communities to be previously consulted.

ECOLOGICAL, SOCIAL, ARCHEOLOGICAL AND OTHER FACTORS. The Junin mining project is adjacent to two legally protected areas: the Chontal Bosque Protector, and the Cotacachi-Cayapas Wilderness Area. In spite of what Ascendant has been saying, most of the concessions encompass PRIMARY cloud forests, which are part of the Tropical Andes Biological Hotspot, the hottest of all Hotspots. The threatened forests protect dozens of pristine streams and rivers, are home to dozens of endangered mammal, amphibian, bird and plant species. These include Jaguars, Ocelots, Spectacled Bears, Pumas, the critically endangered Brown-headed Spider Monkey, and Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, to mention only some of the most prominent. The threat to the spider monkey, which requires mature forests, constitutes a major obstacle to the project, as was highlighted in the scientific work at the nearby Los Cedros Biologial Reserve in 2006.

After reviewing all the information regarding the project’s environmental impacts, our organization concluded that there is no other mining project in the world that threatens so many endangered species.

ECOLOGICAL ORDINANCE. In April of 2000, Cotacachi County, where the Ascendant’s concessions are located, created a strict environmental ordinance that prohibits activities that threaten the County’s native forests, or to contaminate its water resources with heavy metals, such as Ascendant’s project threaten to do.

Social Impacts. The earlier Japanese Environmental Impact Study carried out for the Junin mining project, and based on four years of drilling, and a small portion of the total of the 2.3 million tons of copper they inferred they discovered, called for the relocation of four communities to make room for the mine (this is nearly 4X less than Ascendant’s estimate) All of these communities oppose the mining project, and they have stated they will not relocate peacefully.

ARCHEOLOGY. Parts of the mining area are rich in pre-Incan archeological sites–including earthen pyramids and thousands of tombs. This was confirmed in Ascendant’s own Environmental Impact Study. What possibly Ascendant has kept from you is that Ecuadorian law prohibits mining in archeological areas.

FUTURE CHANGES TO THE MINING LAW. For mining companies doing business overseas, modifications to mining legislation can be a company’s worse nightmare. The recent violence surrounding Canadian mining companies in Ecuador–including the violence of armed groups in Junin financed by Ascendant–not only shocked the nation, but led government officials to propose major changes to Ecuador’s mining legislation. The press has pointed out the serious flaws in the law that makes mining highly injurious to Ecuador’s national interests. A complete overhaul of the law is expected, which will do away with many of the pro-industry incentives that have made mining so attractive for the industry.

FINANCIAL ISSUES. If you still feel this is a viable project and company, consider the following:

Ascendant has raised approximately 20 million dollars since its creation 30 months ago, with little to show by way of positive accomplishment.

The company’s March 31st 2006 first quarter report stated that

“The Company currently has approximately US $5 million earmarked this year for a 22 hole, 15,000 meter, drilling program for Junin once the EIS process is complete…..” (*see above for EIS irregularities)

The report further noted that

The work program will concentrate on the exploration and development of the Junin property. Maintenance fees will be paid and the Chaucha concession will be maintained in good order (p. 10; Outlook Section- bold mine)

The Company’s short-term objective is to gain access to the Junin property for commencement of exploration, through exploration to upgrade the existing inferred resource and demonstrate continuity of grade, to complete a pre-feasibility study to determine if the project is economically viable and, if warranted, prepare further work programs leading to completion of a bankable feasibility study on the project

(this same paragraph was repeated identically in the June 30th 2006, and earlier Financial (and Unaudited) Reports)

(Taken from: Management’s Discussion and Analysis For the Three Months Ended March 31, 2006; and for June 2006)

Although 2006 has come and gone,

a) the Environmental Impact Study has not been approved (nor has it any real prospect for approval).

b) ascendant has not been able to gain access to the Junin property (not even at gunpoint)

c) there has been no exploration at the Junin property

d) no pre-feasibility study has been carried out.

An investor might well question where the 5 million, or the other millions, went.

Perhaps it went here. Ascendant Copper has carried out several questionable deals with other directors, either hiring them or their companies directly for management support or the like, or buying mining concessions outright on Ascendant’s home turf from companies owned by common directors. For example, on May 10th of 2006, Ascendant purchased the Magdalena mining property from Ascension Gold, a company partly owned by Paul Grist, for $ 25,000, and ceded a 2% net smelter royalty fee for Ascension. Grist was one of Ascendant’s directors at the time of the transaction. Had Ascendant itself done the concession paperwork, it would have cost a fraction of what was paid, and it would not have had to give up any royalty rights. In most parts of the world, these kinds of deals would likely qualify as conflict of interest. Perhaps it helps that Ascendant’s quarterly financial statements are unaudited.

Investors should also take note of the guesswork involved in Junin’s inferred mineral deposit. Under Canadian law, a ‘Qualified Person’ is obliged to undertake a site visit when preparing the technical report to determine a mining property’s inferred mineral deposit. In the case of the Junin property, the visit was to determine the amount of the inferred copper and molybdenum deposit. However, in a letter dated July 12, 2006 Ascendant’s CEO admitted to the Canadian Ambassador that the company had, to date, been unable to access its “legally-owned concessions” in the Intag region (the Junin property) Yet the supposed site visit, an obligatory part of the appraisal of the mineral deposit, allegedly took place more than a year prior to the letter being written. Ascendant officials have confirmed this inability to access its concessions publicly in other venues.

Earlier this year, based on the above information, the Canadian Environmental Law Association presented a claim to the Ontario Securities Commission. The results of the ongoing investigation could seriously undermine the inferred amount of minerals at the Junin property.

Risky Business? In June of 2006, RAB CAPITAL (UK) sold all of its 2.3 million Ascendant shares (amounting to 11.8% of Ascendant’s shares) The question begs itself: which one of the multitude of risk factors finally forced the prestigious investment firm to rid itself of Ascendant’s investments.

The above is only a sampling of the abundant examples of troubling financial information coming out of Ascendant. We hope it’s enough to motivate you to ask Ascendant Copper a few tough questions.

Prepared by DECOIN, Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag, January 1, 2007

For additional information, please see: wwww.decoin.org, miningwatch.ca; ascendantalert.ca, intagsolidarity.org, ascendantcopper.com, and sedar.com

Update: As of July 2007, 8 months after their ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STUDY was rejected and 3 ½ years after arriving in Intag, Ascendant has not presented another study, nor are they allowed to explore their concessions.



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