MITSUBISHI AND THE WORLD BANK COME TO INTAG
Exploration for metallic minerals intensified in the Junín area with the arrival of Bishimetals in the early 1990s. Junín is a community located in Intag, a 1,500 km2 expanse of cloud forests and farms in northwestern Ecuador (Cotacachi County, Imbabura Province). Bishimetals, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation, received financing from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to explore for minerals in Junín. The effort led to the discovery of large deposits of copper and other minerals in the Junín-Cuellaje project area, located in the exceptionally biodiverse Toisán Range.
Interest in the mining potential of Intag was further fanned by the Project for Mining Development and Environmental Control (Spanish acronym: PRODEMINCA), financed with a loan from the World Bank (now part of Ecuador’s foreign debt) and implemented in the second half of the 1990s. The principle objective of the PRODEMINCA project was to promote industrial mining in Ecuador. It sought to achieve this goal by: a) modifying Ecuador’s mining legislation to make it much more pro-industry; b) to produce maps of Ecuador’s mineral deposits (thus saving mining companies the time and money in locating minerals). The World Bank has provided the same “service” to dozens of so-called developing countries. DECOIN presented a formal complaint against the Prodeminca project which resulted in a full-scale investigation by the Inspection Panel. However, by this time the project was near its end, and thus too late to modify. One of the most troublesome aspects of the project was that it prospected in seven national parks. This was just one of the many irregularities that came to light as a result of DECOIN’s successful challenge.
Ecuador’s mining law now offers the following incentives to mining companies: No royalty whatsoever, environmental compliance in the hands of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, the right to repatriate 100% of profits, minimal provisions designed to protect the rights of labor and communities or to mitigate and correct damage to the natural environment. The law further gives companies the right to use any and all resources within the concession needed for mining; this includes water, which is required (and polluted) in massive quantities during mineral processing. Compensation for privately owned resources (only subsoil minerals belong to the concession holder) is determined by the Ministry of Energy and Mines; farmers dissatisfied with the decision of this entity do not have the right to appeal to a court of law.
WHAT BISHIMETALS DID DURING ITS STAY IN JUNIN
Bishimetals paid little attention to the laws of Ecuador while exploring in Junín. Among the most serious violations, the company:
- neglected to prepare an EIS prior to exploration (the EIS quoted below was prepared for the production phase);
- neglected to inform communities about the project;
- neglected to consult communities affected about whether they wanted the project;
- built its latrines right on the banks of the Junín River and dumped its garbage into the river, which happens to be the major source of water for communities downriver;
- damaged private property during drilling;
- contaminated the Junín River during drilling, thus causing skin diseases in the local population.
Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag (DECOIN), a local environmental organization founded in response to the mining threat, lodged repeated complaints about these and similar situations to the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM). Employees of the MEM could never find evidence of wrongdoing.
HOW MUCH COPPER IS THERE IN INTAG?
Eventually, Bishimetals discovered mineral deposits in three of Intag’s seven townships (Parish governments). According to JICA, mineralized areas in the Toisán Range contain 318 million tons of copper ore, with a 0.7% concentration. In other words, the Toisán Range will yield a total of 2.26 million tons of pure copper. Molybdenum is also present in a concentration of 0.03%, and there are traces of gold and silver in the ore.
How much copper is 2.26 million tons? Not enough to satisfy the annual demand of China, whose citizens consume three million tons per year. Not even enough for the United States, where people consume 2.3 million tons per year.
ASCENDANT is saying the inferred deposit is approximately 3 times the above amount. They based this on their own “in-house” evaluation.
An interesting bit of data: on average, 75% of all minerals produced in Latin America is exported to the industrialized North. What stays in the South is the devastation resulting from the mining of those minerals. Bishimetals’ scientists predicted the devastation that Junín would suffer if the copper there were ever mined.
ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES OF COPPER MINING IN JUNIN
According to Bishimetals’ scientists, the open-pit copper mine in Junín will produce severe environmental and social impacts.
As noted, the Junín concession is located in the Toisán Range. This area was recently (2005) recognized as an Important Bird Area of South America by Birdlife International. The copper lies under farming communities and primary forests adjoining the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, one of the world’s most biodiverse protected areas. The Toisán is exceptionally rich in water resources, upon which farmers downstream rely, and its primary forests are within two of the world’s 34 biological hotspots (the Tropical Andes and the Chocó-Darien-Western Ecuadorian). Biological hotspots are areas noted for exceptional levels of biological diversity and exceptional numbers of endemic species, and their biodiversity is severely threatened. The Andean Biological Hotspot, the area where the mine would be located, is known as biologically as the hottest of all 34 hotspots. In 1997, the world renown biologist E.O. Wilson wrote a letter to DECOIN pointing out the biological importance of Intag’s forests and of conserving them.
According to JICA’s preliminary Environmental Impact Study (EIS), forests, farms and water resources throughout the Toisan Range would be severely impacted by the planned copper mine. Among the environmental impacts predicted by Bishimetals’ scientists:
massive deforestation leading to drying of the local climate and desertification (his is almost literally what the EIS says) contamination of water sources by lead, arsenic, cadmium and chromium (metals associated with the copper ore) in levels up to 100 times greater than those naturally existing;
- the flight of large mammals due to noise pollution from dynamiting the ore;
- Impacts to the habitat of dozens of bird and mammal species in danger of extinction (including Jaguars, Spectacled Bears, Brown-headed Spider Monkey, Mountain Tapirs and several species of birds)
- Impacts to the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve (similar to a Wilderness Area)
JICA’s scientists also predicted a series of social impacts:
the “relocation” of at least 100 families from four communities whose farms and homes are in the way of the proposed mine and related infrastructure;
the creation of a mining town of 5000 inhabitants (the largest population centers in Intag, where the largest villages are seven parish seats, each with fewer than 500 inhabitants);
increased crime and traffic accidents;
Scientists predicted these impacts after discovering only a small portion of the copper said to exist in the Junín concessions. It is likely that if more copper is mined, more widespread and severe impacts will result.
The mere presence of Bishimetals in Intag produced significant impacts. People began to learn about the impact of mining on forests and communities. Then, alarmed by what they learned, people began to organize. Thus was DECOIN founded. Through DECOIN, often in coordination with other national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the fields of human rights and the environment, residents in the communities immediately threatened and throughout Intag began to mobilize.
Local opposition to the mining project finally resulted in the burning of Bishimetal’s mining camp on May 15, 1997. Hundreds of local residents from seven communities participated in the protest. The government singled out three community leaders for prosecution. Eventually the charges were dropped. Finally, after recommending that further studies be done in the hope of identifying more copper and thus making the mine more attractive to investors, Bishimetals pulled out of the project.
Victory was sweet, while it lasted.
RESISTANCE TO MINING GROWS
Between 1997 and 2002, in spite of the absence of an immediate threat, the opposition to mining in Intag increased dramatically. This was due, primarily, to the growing awareness about how human well-being requires a healthy natural environment and about the destructive nature of mining, in social, economic and environmental terms. DECOIN was key in creating this awareness, and also in creating and/or supporting alternatives to mining, such as the Río Intag Agroartesanal Coffee Growers Association (AACRI), women’s craft groups and community tourism projects. During this same period, the Cotacachi County Government passed an ordinance declaring Cotacachi an “ecological county” where mining and other activities incompatible with the conservation of natural resources are forbidden. DECOIN was the instigator for this unique local law, which sets down the basic plan for a sustainable economic and social base in Cotacachi.
As a result of environmental consciousness raising, Intag was ready for the next round in the anti-mining struggle: the Ministry of Energy and Mine’s (MEM) auction of the Junín concessions. In spite of protests by the presidents of the six parish governments of Intag, most community boards and more than 20 organizations working in the county, the MEM not only went ahead with the auction on August 15, 2002, but awarded the concession to Roque Bustamante, the only bidder, a trafficker in mining concessions, who paid $18,005 for the right to mine 7,000 hectares for 30 years.
The mayor of Cotacachi, with the backing of parish governments, grassroots organizations and the majority of residents, took the MEM to court in 2003. According to the plaintiff, the auction violated article 88 of Ecuador’s constitution which requires that local communities be consulted before the onset of activities that are likely to affect the natural and social environment. The judge who heard the case agreed. Bustamante appealed to the nation’s Constitutional Tribunal. Two of the three judges on the panel assigned to the case once again decided in favor of county government and the communities of Intag, but because it was not a unanimous decision, the case went to the court’s full nine-judge bench. There, after less than 24 hours, five judges decided against the county and in favor of the defendant, which by this time is a Canadian mining firm, Ascendant Exploration, the company to which Bustamante his sold rights to the concessions in Junín while judicial proceedings to decide the legality of the auction were underway.
IN MAY OF 2005, the Municipaliy of Cotacachi presented another lawsuit in the Administrative Court to have the concessions overturned, using similar arguments.
On September 2006, the president of Junin presented yet another constitutional injunction against the Junin mining project asking the courts to stop the government from approving Ascendant’s Environmental Impact Study. The final resolution is still pending.
One of the legal remedies pending is to take the case to the Organization of American State’s Interamerican Commission for Human Rights.
AND NOW WE HAVE ASCENDANT
As noted, Roque Bustamante sold his rights to the Junín mining concessions to Ascendant Exploration, a company based in Quito whose main objective, according to their web page, is to “hold” mining concessions for foreigners. The parent company is Ascendant Holdings, based in the Caribbean islands of Turks y Caicos. Later on, yet another Ascendant was created: Ascendant Copper Corporation, with the objective, according to the company, of mining Junín’s copper. Ascendant, it’s worth noting, is too small to open a mine as large as the one in Junín. DECOIN suspects their real goal is to try to destroy the opposition to the project and then sell the concession to one of the “majors.”
Ascendant’s arrival has coincided with conflicts in the communities directly affected and throughout Intag. Here are just a few examples of clashes between anti-mining residents and company supporters.
Ascendant employees tried to establish a camp in Junín’s community forest reserve contrary to the wishes of residents; they were forced to leave by a women’s group from Junín.
Numerous death threats to anti-mining activists.
In November 2004, three anti-mining residents, including a woman who heads a crafts group, were assaulted by bodyguards employed by pro-mining ex congressman during a public meeting organized by Ascendant. The attacks occurred when the bodyguards tried to forcefully take a camera away from one of the victims containing a photo of General Villacis.
DECOIN and some of its members have received death threats and have been victims of a nasty smear campaign which includes a web page intended to discredit the environmental organization’s members.
CODEGAM, the false organization created by Ascendant, bussed dozens of people to the Cotacachi Municipality in April 2005 to violently demonstrate against the Mayor for supporting the opposition to mining.
In October of 2005, CODEGAM again disrupted a public assembly called by the Garcia Moreno Parish government, forcing the president of the Parish to cancel the event.
On several occasions, CODEGAM followers blocked roads when community leaders and organizations opposed to mining tried to meet.
LAWSUITS: Ascendant initiated over a dozen lawsuits to date, in its strategy to intimidate and wear out the opposition, including one against the Periódico INTAG for a million dollars, which the company dropped a few months later.
Lawsuit presented against Carlos Zorrilla 2 days after Ascendant’s camp was torched by local residents, by a man had sold his land to the company, accusing Mr. Zorrilla of threatening him and others that if they sold the land to the company they would all be killed (this too was dropped) Several lawsuits presented by the company or its employees against anti-mining activists as a result of actions taken by community members to protect their lands and their rights. In all, to date (10-06), there are six active criminal lawsuits involving 20 persons from the communities.
Completely false accusations filed by Leslie Brooke Chaplin against Carlos Zorrilla in July 2006 for supposedly instigating a crowd to steal Ms Chaplin’s camera and assaulting her. It is believed Ms Chaplin was working for the company at the time of the accusation. She left for the US shortly after filing the malicious lawsuit. The false accusations led to arrest and search warrants issued against Carlos, and resulted in a police raid to Carlos’ house early in the morning of 17 of October, where the police planted a gun and drugs in his house. Carlos was not home at the time of the raid and was able to go into hiding. The incident took place in front of the Ministry of Energy and Mines where about 400 Intag residents were demonstrating to pressure the Ministry to force Ascendant to leave the Intag area.
November-December 2006: Clashes with Paramilitaries (See Updates below)
July 2006 saw the presence in the Junin areas armed personnel identifying themselves as members of the Ecuadorian Army Corps of Engineers. Some of these persons were involved in death threats against a local community activist. When this was denounced to the heads of the Corps of Engineers they said they did not send anyone to the Intag area and are investigating. Decoin has denounced this new human rights violation to human rights organizations and the nation’s ombudsman. This is only the latest of many instances of intimidation community and Decoin activists have suffered in the past few months.
Ascendant’s strategy to convince locals that mining has included all kinds of false offers to communities and organizations. According to an earlier $16.5 million “community development proposal” mining will bring only good things to Intag. The project includes 30 kilometers of road building and maintenance; new bridges over two rivers; a fully equipped and staffed health clinic; an ambulance; 1,000 new homes; computers for 37 grade schools; a new high school, and training in organic agriculture. Needless to say, the project was tied in to the community’s acceptance of the mining project.
TO DO SOME OF THEIR DIRTY WORK, Ascendant created the false “community development” organization, CODEGAM, which has been accused of all kinds of divisive and illegal actions by local residents. CODEGAM publicly admitted in 2005 that all their funding came from Ascendant Copper Corporation (July 2005 El Comercio Article). As of August 2006, Codegam was inoperable because of in-fighting, and in early 2007, it broke off relations with the company, citing unwillingness to comply with previous agreements with the company. As of September 2007, CODEGAM was replaced by ODI, another company-made “development organization”.
POLITICAL ACTIVITIES. In one of their first assemblies, CODEGAM publicly called on its followers to not respect the Mayor of Cotacachi; called for the creation of a new Municipality; asked Ascendant to stop all negotiations with the Municipality of Cotacachi; asked that Mr. Zorrilla (at the time DECOIN’s president) and three other foreigners be expelled from Ecuador. Afterwards, using Ascendant funds, they paid for soccer uniforms with a message supporting the creation of a new Municipality. Furthermore, there is evidence that Ascendant gave money to a political party in the Intag area who supported mining.
INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN: Local opposition is not the only used against the mining project. In May 2005, DECOIN, along with Friends of Earth Canada and Mining Watch Canada presented a claim against the mining company for violation of the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. In January of 2006, we decided to withdraw the complaint because we felt there was a total lack of willingness and transparency in the process carried out by Canadian authorities.
The Toronto Stock Exchange: In spite of a determined campaign by DECOIN, Friends of Earth Canada and Mining Watch Canada to alert the regulators in Canada in charge of overseeing listing in the Canadian Stock Exchanges of all the irregularities related to Ascendant Copper Corp, they allowed it to go public in November 2005. This includes dozens of official documents from community presidents, the Mayor of the County of Cotacachi, a prestigious US law firm, pointing out innumerable instances of misinformation in the prospectus meant to mislead potential investors. To illustrate, the prospectus wildly under reported the magnitude of the opposition by most local communities and the government of Cotacachi to the mining project and to the presence of the mining company.
Chalguayacu Bajo, December 10th 2005
The fact is, that the opposition is so fierce that it led to the burning down of Ascendant’s mining camp on the 10th of December 2005. Close to 300 local residents from approximately 15 communities gathered in Chalguayacu Bajo that morning and assumed all responsibility for the collective action. No arrests were made, but Ascendant officially asked the district prosecutor to investigate, and named 24 local residents as possible guilty parties. In addition it named DECOIN’s Carlos Zorrilla as the brains behind the torching of the camp. It’s important to point out that no one was hurt during the deed, and absolutely nothing was stolen from the premises. To date (August 2006), the legal process is still in the investigative phase, and the case may soon go to court, with four of the most effective community activists still named in the lawsuit.
TO DATE and thanks to local opposition, Ascendant Copper Corporation has been unable to access the key mining areas to carry out the Environmental Impact Study necessary for them to do the exploration. Every time they’ve tried, community members from Junín and other nearby communities have stopped them. In early January 2006, the company claimed they were ready to undertake the long-awaited Environmental Impact Studies by first going to the communities to get their input. However, the communities most affected by the mining project have stated they do not want Ascendant on their lands (see updates below).
April 2006: The communities have blocked Ascendant from going into the communities most at risk by the project, even as Ascendant is trying to socialize its environmental impact study, which was done without the communities knowing about it. The communities hold that the company responsible for it didn’t do it in the mining site, since it’s an area controlled by the community of Junin. Daimi Services was hired in January to convince the people of the benefits of the project and to socialize the EIA. However, there has been dramatic resistance to the presence of Daimi. In February, communities blocked a forum organized by Daimi and Ascendant. The previous week, two Daimi employees were taken to Junin by community activists as a way to pressure Daimi to leave the area. No one has been arrested as a result of this latest community action, though five activists were accused by Ascendant of kidnapping. It’s worth noting that the indigenous community of Sarayaku officially asked Daimi to leave their territories due to the aggressive way they executed the community relations programs, and there were accusations of bribery.
CODEGAM officially broke relations with Ascendant on February 17, 2006, and at one point wanted to join with the anti-mining forces to force Ascendant to leave Intag. CODEGAM called on several government institutions to investigate Ascendant, and to revoke its mining concessions.
May 20th 2006, nearly 800 men, women and children, joined all seven Parish presidents, as well as legitimate representatives from most of Intag’s communities and NGO’s in a regional Assembly, where firm anti-mining measures were adopted, including asking Ascendant to leave Intag. The company, at its own peril, has chosen not to abide by this massive demonstration of rejection.
SUCCESSFUL MARCH TO QUITO.
On July 12 and 13th 2006, approximately 600 intag residents traveled to Cotacachi, and then to the nation’s capital, to march to the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the offices of the company, to let the Ministry and the rest of Ecuador know they will not allow mining in Intag. The protesters were led by Parish government presidents and the indigenous Mayor of Cotacachi. The Minister met with a delegation and promised to make sure the company was complying with all laws, and force it to abandon the project if not. To date (10-06), the Minister has not issued any statement regarding promises made.
August 2006: As stated above, several lawsuits and administrative legal processes are being presented by DECOIN as well as community and Parish presidents to declare the concessions illegal, and to legally challenge other aspects of this illegitimate project. Currently, the company is socializing what they consider to be their Environmental Impact Statement for their Junin project, in spite of the presence of several glaring illegalities connected to it.
September 2006: The government of Imbabura Province voted to ask the national government to stop Ascendant from carrying out any exploration or exploitation activities within the Junin mining concession. With this decision, all local governments having any jurisdiction over the Junin mining project have publicly announced their opposition to Ascendant Copper Corporation’s mining project.
Using the courts: In an effort to intimidate the opposition, approximately 12 criminal lawsuits have been filed by Ascendant and/or its employees against approximately 50 community members opposed to the mining project. As of April 2007, the company has lost all the cases that have reached the courts.
OCTOBER 2006: In October 2006, 19 heavily-armed police raided the home of Carlos Zorrilla based on trumped up charges filed by a person believed to be a Ascendant employed. The police took advantage of the raid to steal hundreds of CD’s with personal information, as well as information on Carlos’ environmental work with DECOIN. One of the police also planted a gun and some drugs in his home, leading to other criminal charges. Carlos avoided arrest until the arrest warrant was revoked, and as of April 2007, all charges have been dropped for lack of evidence.
For accounts of the police raid see:
- www.cedhu.org/html/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=360 (Spanish)
EVENTS OF NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER 2006
On November 1st, about 50 persons carrying machetes, tear gas and attack dogs, tried violently to go into the Barcelona-Cerro Pelado area. Despite the risk of confronting paramilitaries, who used the tear gas against unarmed community members (including a 3-year-old child) the communities stopped them. In the struggle, Vicente Quiguango, of the Villaflora community was run-over by a vehicle belonging to the company. Some of the paramilitaries in this incursion would again be seen in Intag 30 days later.
THE USE OF PARAMILITARIES
On December 2, 2006 several dozen armed guards tried to gain entry to Ascendant’s concessions. They were stopped at the Junin road control, which was manned by community members, and were told they could not proceed any further. Without any provocation whatsoever the guards, led by the international security firm Honor and Laurel, used pepper spray and fired their guns indiscriminately at the unarmed community members, wounding one of them in the leg (the attack was videotaped and photographed). The attack was repelled by the communities, and three days later 56 of the estimated 120 armed guards thought to be in the area, were captured by over 100 of the nearly 300 Intag residents who by then had arrived to Junin from all parts of Intag to support the community. The guards were all ex-military. The company also hired an army helicopter to provision the guards with food.
Ascendant later claimed they didn’t hire the guards, who the Quito-based human rights organization CEDHU, labeled paramilitaries, but that they were hired by Falericorp, a company contracted by Ascendant to supposedly work on agricultural projects. Later it was found that Falericorp was not only not an agricultural company, but that they were operating illegally in the country since 2004. The same was discovered about Honor and Laurel, and most organizations or companies Ascendant’s hired to work in Intag.
More aggressions: On the 6th of December, a large delegation composed of nearly 300 persons from Intag and the highlands of Cotacachi along with the Mayor of the county and the governor of Imbabura province were viciously attacked by crowd of about 50 pro-mining persons, when they were on their way to the community of Junin to officially receive the captured guards. The pro-mining crowd threw thousands of rocks, Molotov cocktails, burning tires and shot at the delegation, wounding several of them (including two Decoin representatives) In order to avoid an escalation of the violence, the trip was cancelled. Three days later, representatives from the national government, as well as the Mayor of Cotacachi, arrived by helicopter in Junin and the 56 guards were turned over. Later, as some of Intag’s residents were leaving this event in Junin, pro-mining personnel attacked them, wounding three of them with machetes, and sticks.
(For more information on the events that took place November and December 2006, please see HYPERLINK “http://www.decoin.org” www.decoin.org)
March 2007: Community representatives turned over the guns taken away from the paramilitary force in December of 2006 to police officials in the village of Chalguayacu Alto. One of the police officials expressed his grave concern over the possibility Ecuador becoming another Colombia in light of Ecuador of the paramilitary presence.
April 2007: In March, the opposition peacefully took over Ascendant’s camp in Chalguayacu Bajo, and the company was forced by the government to reduce its workforce by 70% as a consequence of community pressure. The communities then turned over the guns confiscated from the armed paramilitaries to government officials, and agreed with the government to take down its road controls. The company, however, is still prohibited by the communities from entering the mining site. Ascendant’s Environmental Impact Study has not yet been approved.
On July 2007, Polivio Pérez was nearly lynched in Garcia Moreno by a mob comprised, in part, of Ascendant Copper employees. He was saved by the presence of the police, but the mob destroyed his motorcycle. Based in part on this incident, Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action request, calling attention to the threats that anti-mining activist face in Intag. As of January of 2008, Polivio is under 24 hour police protection.
Lawsuits: As of September 2007, charges against Carlos Zorrilla were dropped for both, the original robbery, and illegal possession of firearms charges due to lack of evidence. The drug issue is still pending, however (the District Attorney has not charged him, and has 2 years to decide). Two other court cases were lost by the company in Imbabura courts and were ruled inadmissible- so that, to date (Jan 2008) the company and its followers, has lost all of the court cases it has brought against community members.
September-October 2007: In September, the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum ordered Ascendant to suspend all its activities, including its agricultural work within its Intag concessions. The suspension is still in effect, and it forced Ascendant to fire all of its officials employees working in Intag. There are a few locals who we believe are still under contract with Ascendant, but no way to prove it. Nevertheless, the tension was reduced drastically.
In October, the company lost title to 17 of its properties around the Junin area when a government institution annulled the ownership rights due to illegalities discovered as part of an investigation launched by the government’s Anti-Corruption Commission. The company lost perhaps close to a million dollars and nearly 3,000 acres (1,200 hectares) of land they had purchased to try to gain access to the concessions.
Smear Campaign: In the meantime, the company continues with its smear campaign against organizations in Intag, but specially targeting Decoin and Prodeci (Prodeci is a Spanish-funded NGO). Likewise, Carlos Zorrilla and Polivio Pérez were targeted in late 2007 for a personal smear campaign, which involved the production of a calendar with a strong anti-Decoin message.
In addition to all of the above, there are many other reasons to view Ascendant and its crew with a healthy dose of skepticism. These include:
Chris Werner, Ascendant Exploration’s first Chief Financial Officer, was fined by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for illegal trading of stocks in 1998. According to the SEC’s decision, Werner was involved in a company called Aqua Buoy with Joseph and Constance Pignatiello, in which the couple named “made materially false and misleading statements concerning the Company’s financial condition and sold their own Aqua Buoy stock at inflated prices.”
It is probably only a coincidence that Mr. Werner became involved with a company whose estimate of its assets (copper ore) some believe to be inflated. To whit, though it has yet to do any studies beyond those done by Bishimetals, Ascendant claims that there is more than three times the copper ore estimated by the Japanese company. According to a letter written on December 15, 2004 by Dr. Al Gedicks, addressed to the Finance and Audit Committee of the Toronto Stock Exchange, Ascendant’s figure is so far beyond the original estimate “as to raise serious questions of misleading and inaccurate information provided to stockholders.”
Among retired Ecuadorian military personnel once associated with Ascendant’s top management is Gen. César Villacís, a man who believes that those in favor of human rights, indigenous rights and workers’ rights are part of a “triangle of subversion;” It comes as no surprise that the general is a graduate of the School of the America’s, now located in Fort Benning, Georgia, where some of Latin America’s worst human rights violators have been educated, and that he was also involved in an illegal operation in 1997 related to a US petroleum company. He was also mentioned in a newspaper report (Nuevo Herald), as having taken part of illegal armament purchasing from Colonel Gaddafi ((note: as of Sept 05 Villacis was no longer working in the Intag area)) Paul Grist’s father is an adventurer-fortune seeker with prior dealings in Hampton Resources a Canadian mining company that owned concessions in the same area Ascendant Exploration now has concessions in Ecuador’s Amazon’s. The company went broke in 2004. Mr. Grist is one of Ascendant’s founders.
And then we have former congressman Ronald Andrade. Andrade, until early 2006 when he broke relations with Ascendant, was the mining company’s most vocal defender. His company-contracted bodyguards have been the protagonists of some of the incidents described above. Some of CODEGAM’s members have been involved or charged with several instances of intimidation death threats, and violent actions against public officials (Municipality of Cotacachi), etc
ALTERNATIVES TO MINING
Communities in the mining area and throughout Intag are developing alternatives to mining. For example, Junín owns a nearly 3,000 hectare forest reserve, the centerpiece of its Community Ecological Tourism project (located right over the mineralized area). Fifty men and women from two communities run the project.
AACRI- the Coffee Project. Junín, as well as the rest of Intag, also benefits from a shade-grown, fair trade coffee project, carried out by AACRI, a coffee grower’s association started by DECOIN in 1998, but now independent. AACRI has approximately 300 members growing sustainable coffee.
WOMEN’S GROUPS: Several groups have organized since the Mitsubishi camp bonfire seeking to institute their own form of development. This includes several women’s groups working in sisal handicraft, hand-made soap, etc.
TOISAN SOLIDARITY STORE: Another initiative born directly from this challenge, was the creation of the Toisan Solidarity Store. The Store, situated in Otavalo, sells products only produced by organized groups in the Intag area, and under FAIR TRADE premises.
These are only a few of the many sustainable projects residents have developed in response to the mining threat. These initiatives, and the model of sustainable development being created in Cotacachi County, are supported by a County ordinance, which in 2000, declared Cotacachi County the first Ecological County in Latin America. The Ordinance promotes local, community-based development, full respect for human rights; sustainable use of renewable resources and cultural and biological diversity, to mention a few of its objectives. In other words, a copper mine threatens far more than four communities, primary forests, endangered species and pristine rivers.
Community members from several communities adjacent to the mining area have expressed their intent to continue stopping them, and keep doing whatever it takes until Ascendant leave.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE ISSUES DISCUSSED IN THIS SUMMARY, check updates on www.decoin.org, and:
If you would like to get in touch with us, write to:
There are many other excellent articles on this issue out there in cyberspace: just google decoin and intag
Junin’s email is: firstname.lastname@example.org *
* For English, contact Decoin. Also note that the Community Council and Junín cannot regularly check their emails (no nearby phones). You can copy us and we’ll try our best to contact them.
DECOIN, is a grass-roots environmental organization founded in the Intag region in 1995. All members of DECOIN live in Intag. Our main objectives are: to conserve the area’s unique natural resources, with emphasis on forests, biodiversity and water, and to promote and support sustainable productive initiatives. One of our most important work has been building and supporting a strong opposition to mining activities by working closely with communities, organizations and local governments.