JUNE 4 UPDATE:
Mining Paradise II: Intag’s New Ominous Mining THREATS
Is the Junin nightmare about to restart?
Paraiso and Codelco
Lafarge Cement taken to court
June 4… Yesterday we heard that Codelco, Chile’s state-owned copper company and the world’s largest producer of the red metal, was officially interested in reopening the JUNIN mine as part of government initiative (this according to Ecuador’s Chamber of Mines). Late in the evening, however, Codelco went out of its way to say it was not planning to explore the JUNIN concession. At the same time reliable sources from the PARAISO area, reported eight pick-up loads of Codelco engineers, who are, supposedly, taking samples from the the area around El Paraiso, and perhaps the rest of the Toisan Range (water and rock samples). El Paraiso, as pointed out before, is much too small for Codelco, who only has undertaken huge mining projects- most of them in the world’s driest desert (Atacama). So, it looks like they (teh company and government) are testing the waters before plunging.
The possible start up of the JUNIN project is just one of 7 ongoing and potential mining hassles going on in Intag (the others are: marble mine at Barcelona; a new marble mine proposed at El Rosal; Paraiso, Corazon (small gold mine with contamination issues);Lafarge, and two new concessions in the Paraiso area),,, Make that 8, not seven hassles.
Regarding El Paraiso: together with Cedhu, Ecuador’s most prestigious human rights organization, and the government of Garcia Moreno, DECOIN filed an opposition to El Paraiso’s hard-to-believe Environmental Impact Statement. The Ministry of the Environment responded that they haven’t even received the EIA, so not to worry (yes, we worry!!).. Apparently, the concession owner (who works closely with CODELCO) is amending the EIA. One of the main points we made was that the EIA was illegitimate because it did not include legitimate public discussion. We also pointed out some of the abundant mistakes in the document, which seemed more of a copy and paste of another EIA.
LAFARGE. Recently we got a hold of the Environmental Audit for the Lafarge limestone quarry here in Intag and found some interesting stuff. The Auditors found the company in violation of many environmental norms (using and destroying the side of a mountain to process the limestone, air and noise contamination of school kids living next to the road, river contamination with phenol and limestone, complete destruction of archeological site, and a few more great impacts generated by one of the world’s most responsible mining companies who has, by the way, a deal with WWF to be greener.
CHECK THE NEW WEBSITE we made to denounce Lafarge at:
Mining Paradise II: Update 5 April
It’s been a while. I’m going to try to summarize as much as possible as too much is going on.The new mining threat, in the area of the El Paraiso community, lies approximately 4 kilometers in a straight line west of Junin as is part of a 800 hectare mining concessions owned by an individual who has signed (according to official documents) an agreement with CODELCO, the world’s largest copper producer (1,8 million tons, or 11% of the world’s total production). The concessions is adjacent to the extremely biodiverse Los Cedros Protected Area. While lying within the Cotacachi County, this area is known as Manduriacos and is adjacent to Intag.
CODELCO is owned by the Chilean government and has little experience with mining copper outside the Atacama desert- the driest in the world- where most of its large mines are located.
This week the concession owner, with the support of the Ministry of the Environment, and the Ministry of Non-Renewable Resources, commenced socializing its environmental impact study (EIS) in El Paraiso in order to begin exploration of the concession- with Codelco personnel. The existence of the study was news to most of the people in the area- and especially those around Magdalena Bajo, who were hardly aware of the existence of the mining project and who did not participate in the making of the Terms of Reference- a legal preliminary step necessary for carrying out the EIS.
This is not the only illegality CODELCO is so far party to. Citing violation of its Ecological Ordinance, the Municipality of Cotacachi last month refused to emit a legally required permit to the concession owner to carry out mining activities. The ordinance prohibits mining in native forests. The owner, supported by CODELCO, is obviously intending to ignore the wishes of local residents and disrespect local laws. The disrespect of local authorities extends to the local Government of Garcia Moreno- who has not received any documents from the mining company as required by law.
Rejection early in the game. This last Saturday (March 26) 57 persons from the community of Magdalena Bajo with members of El Paraiso and other nearby communities met to express their outrage and rejection of the mining project. One of the resolution taken was to ask the assistance of DECOIN and for it to be present next Saturday’s meeting in El Paraiso when government officials will come to attempt to legitimize the illegality (the socialization of the EIS is a legal step in the process to begin exploration- but so is socializing the Terms of Reference which was never properly done).
Lafarge, or is it Lafarce?
Yes, it’ll seem surreal, but at the same time this new threat is looming over the horizon, a group of people affected by the operations of the quarry site in Selva Alegre, Intag, as well as the cement factory outside Otavalo where Lafarge transforms the limestone mine in Intag into cement contacted us to see if we could help them with labor, human rights violations and contamination issues. France-based Lafarge is the world’s largest cement manufacturer. In Intag they use the technique known as mountain top removal to strip the limestone from an area rich in native cloud forests.
After many denunciations and persistence from a group of landowners surrounding the mine and factory in late 2010 the Ministry of the Environment carried out several inspections to both sites and confirmed that the company “was in violation of Ecuadorian environmental law and regulations– specifically regarding the components: air, water and soil, and vibration“ (taken from one of the inspections). We are working with involved stakeholders to see how we can be of help.
However, given that quite a remarkable number of illegalities and irregularities have been documented and completely ignore in the case of the nearby marble mine affecting the residents of Barcelona, we don’t hold much hope the contamination and human rights violations will soon stop. The Barcelona conflict is still active, as well as the one affecting the community of El Rosal (another marble project).
Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that Lafarce has an agreement with non other than WWF to clean up its act!
How bad can contamination from a cement factory be? Lafarge has been implicated in mercury contamination in a cement factory in New York (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lafargehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lafarge) The hundreds of thousands of tons of dust emitted annually in the making of cement can also cause or aggravate a wide range of respiratory illnesses for people and animals living around the factory- including tuberculosis and silicosis.
Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that Lafarce has an agreement with none other than WWF to clean up its act!
Losses in Court.
I am hoping that Upside Down World will publish an article I’m working on dealing with the the recent court decision in Canada to throw out the case brought by Polibio and Israel Perez and Marcia Ramirez against the Toronto Stock Exchang and Copper Mesa (See www.ramirezversuscoppermesa.comfor more details). Basically the judges determined that the directors of both these institutions have no obligation to non-investors. If their actions or omissions cause other people (and especially foreigners) to die or become ill from contamination, it is not their responsibility. However, if these fine institutions lie to investors and cause them to lose money, then woe is them. Since it costs way too much to appeal again, this is where this ends.
In fact, the monetary element is one of the bigger issues facing communities when they try to use the legal systems to fight for their rights. In the case of Ramirez versus Copper Mesa, the real costs where over one-hundred thousand dollars- all of it generously covered by the Toronto-based law firm of Klippensteins. If the lawsuit contributed to the company being delisted from the Stock Exchange and to company’s bankruptcy, as it happened early last year, then it was very much worthwhile.
In a related note, if anyone of you lives close to Boston, the Harvard Law School will be holding a panel discussion on the difficulties of communities use of the legal system against transnationals. It’s to take place this coming April 14th and I’ve been invited to participate. Under Rich Earth will be shown before the panel discussion, and I’ll be joined by representatives of Rights Action and Oxfam.
The other courtroom loss, of which I am not going to go into detail for now for lack of time and energy, took place I think the same week as the other loss, and it involved my criminal lawsuit for libel against Ecuacorriente, a Chinese-owned mining company who financed the making of a documentary that portrayed me as terrorist and behind the anti-mining movement in the south of Ecuador. The lawsuit was thrown out on procedural grounds. The project is a huge open-pit copper project in the very biodiverse Condor Range. Since their main argument was that the community manual I co-authored for communities to better stand up to mining companies is a vile and terrorist tool, I believe their objective was to try to convince the government that the manual is responsible for any and all past and future anti-mining activities. Or something absurdly along this line. Does this feel like Alicelandida sometimes? You betcha! More on the criminalization of the social protest later?
This is all I have time for now, I’ll try to update later on the week or after the meeting this coming Friday. BUT, I thought I’d let you know that last year we helped pay for the transportation of 15 high school groups. School will begin next week, and only Junin is funded. Likewise, the new mining threat catches us with very (as in VERY!) little funding for this kind of activity. SO please loosen your wallets.