A quick update on the mining situation:
On July 29th the government sent in 200 police (according to eye witnesses) to clear the road from protesters who had been blockading access the CECAL limestone mine for months (Selva Alegre Parish). This was the second attempt by the government to forcefully reopen the mine. Three community members were arrested (president and two other officials of the community government), but were released 10 hours later after much pressure from organizations and a Provincial National Assembly member. There were no arrest warrants, and they were not obstructing traffic at the time of arrest. The community did not back down as a consequence of this cowardly act of intimidation and are following through denouncing the illegalities irregularities of the mine in the National Assembly (where they were received yesterday in the Biodiversity Commission).
Intag organizations met with 30 representatives from Barcelona community this past Saturday (31 August), to see how to coordinate actions and support the communities. The community is firm in demanding the mine be closed down due to social and environmental impacts. One of the main legal arguments for the closure is that the mine has been operating for decades without the necessary government permits.
DECOIN has hired two lawyers to support all the lawsuits and other legal maneuvers related to this community action. Eight community members still face possible criminal charges as a consequence of the resistance to this mine (see below). YES, we could use funds for the legal defense for this, and the other two mining conflict sites (El Rosal and El Paraiso)
AND MORE NEWS
Make sure you check out Jennifer Moore’s excellent article on the new wave of criminalization sponsored by Ecuador’s government against indigenous and environmental organizations
Latests going ons (May and June)- see below-
JULY UPDATE: There’s rumbling of a new mining company near to the El Paraiso Community west of Junin and north of the Corazón gold mine, close to Los Cedros Reserve. They are supposedly looking for copper and gold. Last week a representative from a local women’s group making tagua handicrafts and promoting tourism contacted DECOIN for support. The trouble in the Barcelona area (Selva Alegre Parroquia) is still worrisome (it’s a marble mine closed for 3 months by the Barcelona community). The two lawsuits (see below) are still pending. In all, nine community residents are being investigated for illegal invasion of private property- one of the lawsuit was generated by the government. The governor of Imbabura province recently renounced his post because he refused to carry out an eviction order issued by the Ministry of Government against community members blocking access to the mine. A June inspection by provincial delegates of Min of Environment found many illegal exploration techniques. UNFORTUNATELY, the same mining company involved in the above case (Cecal), is also trying to open up a new marble mine nearby to the El Rosal Community (a group there makes hand-made soap, shampoos and are into tourism). We met with members of the community the other day, and they too solicited help from DECOIN DECOIN recently hired two lawyers for now to help us with some of the lawsuits and possible legal measures to help the communities, but we need more help (a lot more). Meanwhile, the Minister of the Environment was called to the National Assembly to respond to some of the funny business going on with this mine, and today, 21-o7, she is set to respond to questions by Assembly members. One of the questions will be how was it possible for the mine to operate for decades without its environmental license.
PLEASE DONATE TO HELP PAY FOR LEGAL FEES FOR THE COMMUNITIES
Intag-Wide Assembly rejects mining. Again.
May 21st was the date that around 1500 folks from Intag and Cotacachi got together to work on Intag’s most pressing problems. The Asamblea Zonal was organized by the Consorcio Toisan, and was attended by representatives from just about all of Intag’s communities and organizations, as well as three local governments (Peñaherrera, García Moreno and Selva Alegre). Alberto Acosta, the country’s ex president of the Constitutient Assembly and ex- Minister of Energy was the keynote speaker (his speech was titled: El buen vivir y la maldición de la abundancia; The Good Life and the Abundance Curse)
Sixteen round tables were set up to analyze and propose solutions to Intag’s most important issues, including Environmental Justice, Road Infrastructure, and Education. The principal resolution from the Environmental Justice Round Table was a yet another NO to mining in Intag- whether proposed by private or state industry (echoed in the other work groups). The resolution was soundly supported in the plenary at the end of the day, with a nearly 90% approval rate. The resolution also rejected the new proposed marble mining project in the area, as well as others already underway. It specifically rejected the government’s recent plan to start up the Junin mining project this year. This makes it about the 12th time mining has been rejected in Junin by community and local government assemblies (I’ll try to get and post some photos of the event next week)
World Environment Day.
DECOIN joined forces with the Ministry of the Enviroment and Consorcio Toisan to carry out several activities during the week leading to World Environment Day, on June 5th. Ministry of Environment officials and DECOIN representatives met with school kids from Intag’s Parish townships to talk about environmental issues, including proper treatment of garbage. Small posters and other materials were handed out and students helped clean up garbage at several sites, plus took part of a pro-environment march in Apuela. The week of events was capped by a Assembly held at the Piscinas Nangulví attended by 560 students from Intag’s high schools, as well as community and organizational representatives. (photos next week)
DECOIN is also coordinating environmental education work the equivalent 46 high-school students from Intag’s three main high schools. The students meet every Saturday and participate in different environmental activities and presentations on environmental issues.
Lawsuit. On May 7th, the Toronto court hearing our case against the Toronto Stock Exchange and Copper Mesa ruled against the admissibility of the lawsuit. Basically, the judges said neither the Stock Exchange nor the company were responsible for what happened on the ground in Junin. The lawyers representing the plaintiffs (Marcia Ramirez, Polibio Pérez and Israel Pérez) appealed the decision. Needless to say, we all feel they are accountable, since without their actions or omissions the human rights violations would have never taken place (for more details please see: http://www.ramirezversuscoppermesa.com/
As probably most of you know, the government recently announced plans to reactivate the Junin mining project. Correa’s government has allotted $180,000.00 to fund what they are calling a “social-environmental” study in Junin with the aim of establishing the viability of the copper mining project. As it stands now, only a state-owned mining company could legally develop the mine, so we expect that the newly created state mining company will initiate the studies (for more details see: http://upsidedownworld.org/main/ecuador-archives-49/2500–correa-looks-to-reopen-unpopular-mining-project-in-junin
Marble mining. We recently received word that 8 activist from the Selva Alegre area, in addition to Polibio Pérez, have been named as defendants in a lawsuit presented by the Ministry of Mines for obstruction of an the Cecal marble mine (in operation since the 1970s). The residents of several communities surrounding the mine have complained about contamination issues and other problems caused by the mine. The new mining law forces the government to step in and defend the rights of the mining companies whenever their operation is affected by work-stoppages or blockades, such as the one that was carried out for several weeks in April and May.
In addition to the above, a new company wants to open up another marble mine in the García Moreno Parish. The local government and several communities have asked DECOIN for legal and other support to stop the mine, which is going ahead without legal support from the local governments, and communities.
Another Smear campaign. As if dealing with one mining company wasn’t enough, in March of this year, a documentary paid for by Ecuacorrientes, a subsidiary of Canadian Corriente Resources, was presented in the country. The film’s objective is neutralizing the anti-mining documentary produced by CEDHU, Ecuador’s premier human-rights organization titled: In the open Sky: Undermining Rights. The documentary funded by Ecuacorrientes spends around half of its time damming me and a manual I helped write to help communities defend themselves against extractive projects (the manual is titled: Protecting Your Communities Against Mining Companies and Other Extractive Industries. You can download it at: http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/united-states/protecting-your-community-0). Ecuacorriente’s copper mining project is way in the south of Ecuador and I’ve never been involved in the anti-mining struggle down there (they are doing just fine on their own).
UNFORTUNATELY, mining interests are not the only ones smearing me lately with outrageous distortion of facts and the truth; some of it is originating from supposed allies. This other kind of smearing can, needless to say, can be much more damaging to Intag’s anti-mining struggle. And, while this kind of maliciousness comes with the territory, and I could opt to take it as a form of compliment, I’d much rather do without it thank you. Putting up with nearly fifteen of being smeared is plenty.
Presently, I am in the process of filing a lawsuit against the producers of the film for libel.
In May, Washington-based Earth Economics representatives came to Intag to develop further their plan of carrying out an alternative economic study of Intag (see: http://www.eartheconomics.org/Page77.aspx In summary, we can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that socially, environmentally and culturally, mining makes absolutely no sense in places like Intag. We cannot prove anything economically unless we have hard data to back up the obvious: that Intag’s environmental services and sustainable economic alternatives are worth a hell of a lot more than mining can every produce- in the long run. This study seeks to prove just that. The study, if EE can find the funding ((*they did on aug 9th)), will help influence Ecuador’s decision makers that can only see the traditional economic benefits of mining development. The study should also be helpful to communities fighting mining development in other parts of Ecuador- and the world- sharing similar environmental conditions.
Please get in touch if you would like to donate. We have just created a special Legal Defense Fund to legally help the activists charged by the Ministry of Mines, to use legal mechanisms to defend the community’s constitutional right to a life without mining, and to help me sue the producers of the film mentioned above.