The Curse of Copper: Codelco in Intag (again)

By , November 29, 2011


Ecuador’s state mining company, signed a deal   to begin exploration of promising copper deposits  in the north of the country and within mining areas belonging to Ecuador.  There are very few places with such characteristics, and of course, the main one is in Intag. And, in fact, Codelco mentions in this news release (  the name El Palmar, which is a mining concession near to Junin better known as El PARAISO (see past blogs).

Codelco says- incredibly- that the amazingly flawed Environmental Impact Study was approved, and that activities should begin soon.

Let me remind everyone what is at stake and WHY:


I recently had a look at the government’s brand new mining development plan for 20II-20I5. Junin is mentioned several times, not just as having an incredible 40% of the country’s mineral wealth (supposedly 84 billion dollars worth- quite a stretch!!), but also because the government thinks it can start working in Junin in 2012. Where does this leave CODELCO? The world’s largest copper producer (owned by the Chilean Government and its people) is trying very hard to look for copper just west of Junin- in the vicinity of the El Paraiso community. Apparently, the individual who owns the concession, has $omehow managed to get approval the first stage of the Environmental Impact Study. But, bear in mind that CODELCO only does mega mining project- coincidentally, in the world’s driest desert (the Atacama, in northern Chile). They will not consider relatively small projects as might exist in the 800 hectare concession they are playing around in at the moment. It’s pretty clear their sights are set on Junin, and they are likely seeing it as a joint-venture with the Ecuadorian government.

Why do I say Codelco will surely fail in Junin? Let me count the ways:
Because they started on the wrong foot: lying to locals, failing to consult in good faith, and trying to buy the support they need with money and promises (Duh!, that’s creative!!)
Because they know, or should know, that the overwhelming majority of communities, organizations, and local governments in Intag reject mining as a model of development in (hello in there… two transnationals defeated, and what can you do that they others didn’t?). In a recent national anti-mining assembly, the rejection of Codelco’s presence in Intag was vociferous as it was total. And if that wasn’t enough, in a recent development that should grow a few grey hairs in Chile, the mayor of Cotacachi County, Alberto Andrango, publicly stated (newspaper interview in August of this year) his rejection for mining for the whole County, and that his government will support tourism and agriculture instead.
Because they know, or should know, that the area is rich in primary cloud forests that are the home of dozens of species of mammals and birds facing extinction. And because open-pit mining is illegal in Cotacachi County. It was outlawed in 2000 with the passing of the legally-binding Cotacachi Ecological County Ordinance. Plus, they are practically surrounded by and within four protected areas (the Los Cedros, and the Chontal Protected Forests, the Toisan Municipal Protected Area, and the Junin Community Reserve). Not enough? How about that where they are looking for copper is extraordinarily rich in pre-Spanish archeological vestiges belonging to a people which very, very little is known about? Oh, and by the way, for all practical purposes, mining is illegal in such sites.
Because they know, or should know, that the people in Intag will not allow it. During the course of the last almost 17 years of standing up to transnationals, they’ve learned a few tricks. They made Mitsubishi clear out in 1997, and then Copper Mesa in 2008. In the case of the latter, not only did it have to abandon Intag, but the company lost its concessions, was kicked off the Toronto Stock Exchange, and was sued in Canada. It hasn’t been heard from since.

Surely, at a time when hundreds of thousands of Chileans are taking to the streets to protest in favor of improved public education, the Chilean government can think of better things to do with its citizen’s money than to throw away in a mining project that is guaranteed to fail.

Carlos Zorrilla


(Small part of Red Dog mine in Alaska)






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