Ecuador’s mining agenda and JUNIN

By , September 7, 2010




THIS PAST FRIDAY AND SATURDAY (Sept 3 and 4), 100 folks from all over Ecuador met to discuss environmental and social issues affecting Ecuador, and to reaffirm the National Environmental Assembly’s work. The Assembly is made up of indigenous, afroecuadorians, environmental and human rights NGO’, women’s groups, and communities which share a vision of a socially just and economically and environmentally sustainable Ecuador.

The resolution (in Spanish for now below), rejects the government’s pro-extractive industry, and the its smear campaign against community activists who are defending the environment, as well as the distortion of important concepts like Buen Vivir (Good Life), the Rights of Nature which the government says it pursues, but at the same time opens the country to large-scale metallic mines (see below)

The document denounces the regime’s strategy of systematically trying to control, and of outright destroying civil society organizations, at the same time that it calls on all organizations to join forces to secure the environmental rights enshrined in Ecuador’s Constitution.

ANA’s declarations also firmly supports the communities of El Rosal (Garcia Moreno) and Barcelona (Selva Alegre), in Intag, who are defending their rights against two mining companies who are flagrantly violating their rights.


On the 20th of August, Quito’s El Hoy newspaper published a two-page spread on the government’s open push supporting large-scale metallic mining in Ecuador (link below). The Minister of Non-Renewable Resources, Wilson Pastor, said that by 2013 the seven large-scale copper mining projects in Ecuador- including JUNIN- would be producing their first tons of copper concentrate.

According to the article, the Ecuador’s new national mining company, in a joint-venture with Codelco, will (try to) open the mine in Junin. Codelco is the world’s largest producer of copper and is owned by the Chilean government (and it mines copper in the driest desert in the world- the Atacama desert).

The article also went into detail about the cooper mining projects in the Cordillera del Condor (south of the country), where a Chinese joint-venture company is ready to start opening the open-pit mine in November. All of the copper is set to sail to China.

Something to keep in mind is that in the past three or four months, China has lent Ecuador over 3 billion dollars to help the government balance the budget. Is it any coincidence that China is aggressively looking for raw resources all over the world, but particularly copper and petroleum?

I suppose there are worse scenarios than Chinese mining companies in our communities, but I can’t think of any.

To complicate matters, lately the government has been very busy giving away all kinds of subsidies for “poor citizens” in Intag, and offering to support development projects.

It is one thing to fight against a “nasty” transnational mining company, another to defend the social, economic and environmental rights enshrined in Ecuador’s Constitution being threatened by the very same State that is supposed to guarantee them. One of the rights of the new Constitution is the right of Resistance. I imagine it is one right that will be used extensively in Intag.

YES, IT IS DEPRESSING, to see that the government is so………… idiotically and selfishly throwing away Ecuador’s potential to live permanently off its biological resources.

Let’s summarize:

  1. Ecuador is one of the world’s most biological and culturally diverse countries. There are more orchids in tiny Ecuador than in Brazil.
  2. The most important mining sites are located in exceptionally biodiverse and threatened areas. Intag and the Cordillera del Cóndor, harbor dozens of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and plants threatened by extinction. And, the sites have not even been completely studied.
  3. Both areas also are very rich in pristine rivers and streams. Heavy metal contamination will render them and their fauna and flora toxic for centuries.
  4. Ecuador is the only Andean nation without large-scale mining. Talk about a comparative advantage for attracting the ecotourists of the world!
  5. Its potential to benefit from an ethical carbon market is enormous
  6. Ecuador has humongous nature-based tourism potential (rural, eco, medicinal, agro, etc.)
  7. It is extremely wealthy in water resources (to export hydroelectricity for example)
  8. It rains a lot in the mining areas where the copper is. Heavy rainfall and mining are sure-fire ingredients for a perpetual ecological nightmare. The functionaries of the present government will not be around to waken to the worse aspects of it. Today’s young people and future generations will have no choice but to live in it.
  9. Most (and I mean most!) indigenous people have said they will not allow mining in their territories. Most mestizo communities have also openly rejected large-scale mining projects. This sets the scenario for unending social conflicts and human rights violations.
  10. No one has added up how much it will cost the national and local governments to deal with mining related environmental and social upheaval. After the mining rush, and after their minerals have helped China grow a few more percentage points, Ecuador will be left with an unimaginably hefty bill. Mining remediation can easily cost hundreds of millions of dollars per site. The rainier the site, the higher the costs. Just about all of Ecuador’s mineral deposit will produce acid mine drainage. In the developed North, companies have to treat water in perpetuity to prevent heavy metal contamination. How many companies can guarantee they’ll be around in a hundred, or a thousand years?
  11. Mining extraction has, in developing countries like Ecuador, shown to exacerbate poverty.

I could go on.





The community of Barcelona has been standing by watching truck after truck loaded with limestone leave an illegal mine (without valid environmental impact statement), and being scorted by the police. Their patience is wearing thin and more and more community members and now others from others communities are sick of seeing so much injustice and corruption to prop up an illegal mining operation. It’s been almost four months of work stoppages, lawsuits to try to force the authorities to enforce the nation’s environmental and mining laws, and the response has been police repression and bullshit meetings. There are more than enough legal reasons to close the mine. Yet, the government opts to support the mining company and illegality.

El Rosal. This again, is one for Ripley’s. A new mining company is building a road to a site to exploit limestone, suppossedly. There is no environmental impact study for the road, much less for the mine. The mine will almost certainly impact the drinking water sources of El Rosal and the Parish center of García Moreno. Yet, instead of stopping the road and demanding studies and levying fines for working without permits- the provincial government takes over the road building for the company!! How much injustice can a community endure?


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