One Step Closer to Nationalization / Nuevas de Intag

By , March 24, 2008

Ecuador Takes One Step Closer to Nationalizing Its Mining Industry
(and other news….)

On his weekly radio address to the nation on the 15th of March, Ecuador’s president told Ecuadorians he would exploit its mineral resources in the south of the country through the creation of a national mining corporation. The last 6 or so months, Correa has expressed support for exploiting the four large gold-copper deposits in the south (belonging to Aurelian, Corrientes Resources, Iamgold and IMC- all Canadian corporations) As for Ascendant’s ex-Junin project, when mining comes up in Correa’s pro-mining speeches Junin and Intag are never mentioned, and no mining is planned for the north of the country (the status of Ascendant’s ex-Junin concessions has not changed- they are in the hands of the government)

The seemingly pro-mining stance by the president is in direct opposition to the anti large-scale mining position most Constitutional Assembly members, and most of Ecuador’s civil society holds. Additionally, in all the public forums organized by the Constitutional Assembly, the answer has been a resounding NO to large-scale mining projects. During the past 3 months, this position has received very strong support from Ecuador’s largest indigenous organizations, including CONAIE and ECUARUNARI. The latest manifestation of rejection to large-scale mining came on the 11th of March as part of a multitudinous march on the capital by thousands of indigenous from all over the country.

It is the Constitutional Assembly, and not the President, who will re-write the constitution. In this context, there are calls from several important sectors of the nation, including major political parties, to ban all large-scale metallic mining projects. It is this issue, more than any other, which has created the most friction within Correa’s own party.

Meanwhile, the plans for the mining mandate are on hold. The mandate would annul those concessions that were not annulled in January of 2008,until such a time that a new mining law is approved by the yet-to-be elected national congress (which could be a very long time). There are several versions up for debate, and most of them call for ban on large-scale and open-pit metallic mining in Ecuador.

And other news….
Ascendant has made the news in other forums. For example, it had the distinction of being on the list of mining companies criticized by the February 14 report of the Earthworks-Oxfam’s No Dirty Gold Campaign, which lists companies criticized for various unethical behavior, including violating human rights, dumping wastes on rivers and oceans, for their alleged involvement in armed or militarized conflict, or forced relocation of nearby landowners and/or indigenous peoples.

In the “Additional News From the Weird” category, it now seems official that Ascendant will acquire St Genevieve Resources. The Montreal-based company has a couple of highly unproductive mines in Arizona and seemed on the brink of total meltdown. The company’s stock price has hovered at 1cent per share lately (yes, $0.01). Ascendant’s own shares have hovered in the 10 cent range recently, and have been on a downhill ride for quite sometime. Without its Junin mining concessions, and the disappointing Chaucha drill results (bad enough to scare off its Chilean partner earlier last year), there’s really nothing to Ascendant. Chaucha’s exploration results, it’s worth mentioning, was earlier evaluated by a paid Ascendant employee.

La nacionalizacion de los recursos mineros mas cerca en el Ecuador
El presidente Rafael Correa, en su ultimo discurso semanal radiofonico (Sabado (15-03) le dijo a la nacion que explotaria el cobre y el oro en el sur del pais a traves de la creacion de una corporacion minera nacional. Durante los ultimos seis meses, Correa ha expresado su apoyado a la explotacion de cuatro yacimientos de oro y cobre en el sur del pais (pertenecientes a Aurelian, Corrientes Resources, Iamgold and IMC- todas empresas canadienses) Junin e Intag nunca se mencionan, y ninguna mineria esta concebida para el norte del pais (el estatus de las ex-concesiones de Ascendant en Junin no ha cambiado- permanecen en manos del gobierno)

Esta postura por el presidente se encuentra en oposicion directa a la posicion de la mayoria de los asambleistas, y la mayoria de la sociedad civil ecuatoriana. Ademas, en todos los foros publicos organizados por la Asamblea Constituyente, la respuesta a sido un contundente NO a la mineria a gran escala. Durante los ultimos 3 meses, dicha posicion ha recibido un fuete respaldo de parte de las organizaciones indigenas mas grande del Ecuador, incluyendo a CONAIE y ECUARUNARI.

Es la Asamblea Constituyente, y no el presidente, quien elaborara la constitucion. Y, dentro de este contexto, ha habido varios reclamos de importantes sectores del pais, incluyendo de parte de importantes partidos politicos, para prohibir todo proyecto minero metalico a gran escala. Mas que cualquier otro tema, este es el que mas friccion ha creado dentro del partido de Correa.

Mientras tanto, los planes para el mandato minero esta en espera (yamismito). El mandato anularia las concesiones que no fueron anuladas en enero del 2007, y suspenderia nuevas concesiones hasta que la nueva ley de mineria sea redactada por el congreso nacional, aun por elegirse (lo cual podria demorar mucho tiempo). Existen varias versiones en discusion del mandato, y la mayoria prohibirian la mineria metalica y a cielo abierto en el Ecuador.

Por otro lado (y en la categoria de Aunque Usted no lo Crea), Ascendant se encuentra en proceso de adquirir a St Genevieve Resources, una pequenia y practicamente bancarrota empresa canadiense con un par de minas impresionantemente improductivas en el estado norteamericano de Arizona. El precio de las acciones de St Genevieve es de un centavo de dolar por accion- la de Ascendant esta por los 10 centavos de dolares… ¿Que estaran pensando los inversionistas??


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