MINING PARADISE: THE NEW SEASON
Enami tries to establish a presence in Intag and hopes to succeed where Mitsubishi and Copper Mesa failed
You were with us for the first exciting season of Mining Paradise in the 1990’s, when Bishimetals, a Mitsubishi subsidiary, spent years exploring for copper in Intag’s Toisan Cordillera, thanks to one of those wonderful “international development project”, paid by the Japanese taxpayers. The project sought to help poor Ecuadorians by looking for and developing copper mines. Japan, to date, depends 100% on copper imports, so that the real reason for the international aid was exposed during the opening episodes. As you recall, the season ended rather abruptly in 1997 when the communities in Intag decided that mining was not the kind of development they wanted, and burned the Bishimetals mining camp to the ground. No one was really surprised, since the Environmental Impact Study, done for a very small mine, called for widespread environmental devastation and social upheaval, including massive deforestation, impact to dozens of endangered animal species, rivers contaminated with heavy metals, relocation of four communities and increase in crime.
The next few seasons featured the work of organizations coming up with sustainable economic and social alternatives to the mining holocaust, including shade-grown coffee and community tourism, both Decoin initiatives. It also featured a couple of episodes of DECOIN and AACRI challenging Prodeminca, a World Bank mining project, whose sole objective was to open up Ecuador to large-scale mining.
The next season featured the Intag community’s response to the new actor, Copper Mesa (name changed from Ascendant Copper), and included many episodes featuring the illegal and violent strategies used by the company to try and break the opposition to mining. You will recall one of the more memorable episodes of the community taking prisoners 56 ex-military dressed as security guards, who the company insisted were “agricultural consultants”. A couple of episodes included the story of the police raid on Carlos’ farm at 6am in the morning to try to arrest him based on made up charges, and the lone police leaving a gun and a suspicious substance in his home to generate new criminal charges.
This action-packed season, which included the burning down of Copper Mesa’s mining camp in Chalguyacu Bajo, false arrest of Intag leaders, an attempt by the company’s mercenaries to violently try to access its concessions via the communities of Barcelona and Cerro Pelado, plus the training of some Intag residents in paramilitary skills outside Quito by the company’s subcontractors, concluded when the company went broke as a result of being kicked off the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2010. Prior to that ending, the company and the Toronto Stock Exchange were sued by three Intag residents, in a ground-breaking lawsuit which had much to do with the subsequent delisting from the Exchange, and bankrupting the company.
On the last episode, we warned that it was a matter of time before some other fool and/or company would try to resume where these two had utterly failed. Thus, the official start of the new season of Mining Paradise, includes the first steps by ENAMI, the state-owned Ecuadorian mining company, which is currently trying to establish a base camp in Villadorita- relatively close to JUNIN (the rumors were true). Its plans, according to a slip by one of the employees, is to “go into Junin” next year (after the elections).
It does goes to show that there is no end to the stupidity that the false promise (read greed) of mining wealth produces in individuals, corporations and governments. Just to give an example of what Im referring to: The wealth of Intag’s ecosystem services amounts to no less than $447 millon PER YEAR, in perpetuity, as reported in the Earth Economic’s An Ecological Study of Ecuador’s Intag Region (http://www.eartheconomics.org/FileLibrary/file/Reports/Latin%20America/Final%20Intag%20Report_lo_res.pdf) ((We hope to deliver the report to many of Ecuador’s decision makers later this month)
On the other hand, Mining will, in the process of creating a few year’s worth of economic wealth, destroy the foundations of Intag’s ecosystems, contaminate rivers for centuries, plus wreak social havoc in the communities. Yet, here we are again facing the same sh..,, just now from a different bull (a much bigger, much more dangerous bull)
ENAMI, by the way, is not alone. Since it has no clue of how to explore for minerals, much less have the intellectual capacity or experience of opening a large-scale mine, they teamed up with CODELCO, the world’s largest producer of copper. CODELCO, however, as is the case with most large companies that are afraid of dirtying its hands and earning a bad reputation on one of its first overseas ventures, will probably sit on the sidelines as the government, with all its might and nearsightedness, tries to “pacify” the natives.
What carrots and sticks the government will use in its native-pacification program, and whether, as previously, it will involve gross human rights violations and how the Intag communities react to the pacification, remains to be seen, but it will be featured in the next episodes of this new season. We can only hope intelligence spontaneously erupts among in the government circles making decisions affecting Intag’s future (Im pessimistic it will occur any other way), and they choose to leave us alone. We want to avoid the violence affecting countries like Peru, where recently another
four five activist died in protests against a gold mine, which hasn’t even been built).
In this case, Im sure you will not be disappointed if this new season comes to an abrupt, and happy, ending!!
Stay tuned, there’s a lot more to this story