Intag again in the mining agenda; 17 reasons why mining won’t work in Ecuador

By , March 9, 2012

Yesterday, El Comercio newspaper published a map with the current concessions being developed, and future concessions to be offered to private mining companies. Magdalena, which is the same as Los Mandariyacus concession and the same one Codelco is trying to developed, was one of the 10 concessions the government wants companies to explore. Magdalena and Junin are inseperable in the sense that mining just Magdalena makes no sense; it’s just too small, and the government knows the copper is in Junin area and the rest of the Toisan Range. Thus, it is very likely Codelco will resume exploration after the protests this month against Correa’s extractive policies.

17 Reasons mining will be a disaster in Ecuador
The day before yesterday (March 7th), a few news organizations published a preliminary report by the equivalent of Ecuador’s Comptroller General’s office which had been studying possible illegalities and irregularities surrounding two mining concessions in the Cordillera del Condor, including Chinese-owned Mirador (copper mining). The Comptroller General found 17 significant illegalities and irregularities, some of which clearly should have stopped the mining project dead in its tract. This included, finding the concession was partly in a legally protected forests, that there were hundreds of rivers and streams within the mining areas studied- something that violated the 2008 Mining Mandate and should have led to the annulment of the concession, and 15 other gross violations of the Constitution, the mining law. Three days before the study was made public, and being fully informed of the study’s findings and its implications, Correa´s government signed the contract with ECUACORRIENTE to authorize it to start the construction of the open-pit copper mine.
Meanwhile, functionaries like the Minister of the Environment, publicly stated that the only problem with this open- pit mining is that it will permanently remove primary vegetation, and that will be controlled like any other project. She also claims that there were no “fuentes de agua”, or water sources (such as rivers and streams), within the 9000 hectares of concessioned land! Not so incredibly, the Minister of the Environment gave Ecuacorriente the environmental license a few says before the signing of the contract…..

Why? It’s pretty straight forward really: Correa’s government needs money to cover budget deficit and to continue his populist caudilloist form of government. Correa burned a few bridges with International Financial Institutions a few years back, so there’s few places to borrow nearly 9 billion bucks so far. The Chinese need copper (they consume 40% of the world’s supply) and could give the slightest hoot about human rights, mining without permission in native indigenous lands, razing primary forests or contaminating rivers for centuries. End of story.
One particularly interesting aspect of the contract is that the Chinese will give Correa 100 million dollars in advance of royalty obligations, well before the project begins. The money will be used to coopt local governments and communities by bringing roads, clinics, internet and all the normal trappings of a failed model of development. This, as far as I know, is the first mining contract with this modality; and if it catches on, it will probably become the modus operandi for mining companies to neutralize opposition to their projects. Needless to say, it’ll make mining a lot more attractive to corrupt and even non-corrupt governments, as it means a whole lot of cash early in the extractive show.

So, why does this make mining disastrous in places like Ecuador? Well, this is an old tale really, but it’s all about corruption, and of putting gross short-term interest ahead of people’s and nature rights, ahead of cultural and biological diversity, ahead of clean rivers and endangered species, and ahead of the health of citizens and peaceful communities. And, if things like the Constitution and the law get in the way, well…….

The preceding has been a intro into MINING 101!!!


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