IT’S ALL OVER FOR LARGE-SCALE MINING IN ECUADOR.

By , April 19, 2008
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IT’S ALL OVER FOR LARGE-SCALE MINING IN ECUADOR

(Español ya mismo….)

In the last few months, the mining companies spent millions of dollars in publicity to try and convince Ecuadorians that large-scale mining would get them out of poverty, create thousands of new jobs, and bring millions in rents for the government as well as prosperity for everyone. However, today, Ecuador’s national Constitutional Assembly passed the Mining Mandate, which will cause the “extinction” of most of the nation’s mining concessions. The Mandate was passed by a 95 to 1 margin, with 25 abstentions.

The Mandate, composed of 12 articles, sets out the reasons for the extinction- without recourse for recompension- of all the mining concessions where no previous consultation took place with the communities, as of March 31 2007– Just this measure alone will annul all- or nearly all- the mining concessions given out by the government since the 1998 Constitution, the year this safeguard went into effect. This measure should extinguish about 90% of Ecuador’s large-scale metal mining projects- including Canada’s Ascendant Copper’s, IAMGOLD, AURELIAN, ECUACORRIENTE (CORRIENTE RESOURCES), AVALANCHE, ALL METALS, DYNASTY, LOWELL, and many others.

The Mandate sets out other causes for the extinction the concessions- including all mining projects that may impact water resources , and those found within private or public protected areas and their buffer areas (article 3). Those projects that have not kept up their dues with the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum will also lose their concessions, as well as those who have not invested in exploration activities, or in developing their projects.

The only metallic mining projects able to continue operation, according to article eight of the Mandate, are those which are currently in the exploitation phase and which have complied with the previous consultation constitutional guarantee. It’s worth mentioning that there are no large-scale metal mining projects in the exploitation phase in Ecuador.

NEW MINING LEGISLATION
Six months from today, was the time given by the Mandate for the government to draw a new mining legislation- which will include a national mining company- something spelled out in the Mandate.

LIMITS TO CONCESSIONS: THREE PER COMPANY
Concessions numbering more than three per individual or company (including subsidiaries), are likewise extinguished. this limits the number of hectares per company or individual to 15,000 hectares (5000 hectare per concession max). Most companies own dozens of concessions- including Ascendant, Ecuacorrientes, etc. In the case of Ecuacorrientes, until 12 noon today, they owned more than 62,000 hectares within more than a dozen concessions. Now, depending on how the Mandate is interpreted, they own nothing. Ascendant is in a similar boat- if they didn’t lose all their concessions for failing to undertake the previous consultation (and we are not aware that the communities were legally consulted anywhere in Ecuador), they will lose all but three of their concessions. Their crown jewels, Golden 1 and Golden 2, the company lost in January of this year as a consequence of legal decision taken by the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum- the Mandate is a far stronger legal measure, which leaves no room for a legal challenge. The nature of the powers vested in the National Constitutional Assembly makes it impossible to legally challenge the body’s decisions- and not even Ecuador’s president can do anything about it.

At least in the case of the mining concessions in the Intag area, not a single mining project has dutifully complied with this constitutional guarantee. This not only includes Ascendant Copper, but also Avalanche, and Lowell Mining, as well as others. At the national level, this will cut down 3,000 or more concessions- mostly belonging to Canadian companies.

Many analysts feel the mandate seeks to wipe the slate clean with mining in Ecuador, in order to create much more favorable conditions benefitting the country. The current mining law, modified and paid for by a World Bank project in the 90’s, is seen as a particularly harmful for the country’s interests. The law exclusively beneffited the mining companies. A big question remains whether the new mining law, which should be ready in 180 days, will permanently prohibit all large and medium scale metal mining in Ecuador. There is widescale support within and without the National Assembly for an Ecuador free of large and medium scale metal mining. After the Mandate, the conditions could hardly be better for it to come about.

We in Intag see it as an amzing victory of people power over huge vested interests. As mentioned earlier, the mining companies spent millions of dollars to publicize their pro-mining agenda. Just in the past 48 hours alone, the TV, radio and printed press were indundated with such publicity. There were also wide-spread rumors of hundreds of millions of dollars invested in vote gathering within the Assembly. In the face of this unbelieable onslaught, it is nothing if not amazing that our position won- with the support of some very couragous and ethical members of the Assembly.

TONIGHT WE CELEBRATE THIS TRULY AMAZING VICTORY OF RIGHT OVER MIGHT AND BELIEVE THAT IT WILL LEAD TO AN ECUADOR FREE OF LARGE AND MEDIUM SCALE METAL MINING IN THE NEAR FUTURE!

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