Mining Paradise: Codelco tries to set the stage (and fails)

By , May 11, 2013

Intag news, 11 May 2013

 Mining Paradise:  Codelco Trying to Set the Stage

Ecuador’s Doublespeak

And More


   Contaminated water welling up from one of several exploration wells drilled in the 90’s in Junin   

and still  contaminating the Junin river 

 Codelco has been busy of late.  Last Monday they, along with Enami functionaries were allowed to give a hour-long presentation to the illustrious leaders of the Cotacachi government about the Junin project.  Not one or two employees, but 10 of them converged on the local government and espoused their brand of doublespeak about the mining project.  This and other measures taken lately by Codelco points to them wanting to start their environmental impact study soon.  They may attempt it, but there is no coordination with the communities and local governments.

 The Municipal presentation was a flashback to the good ol’ Ascendant Copper Days.  I’m referring the omission of information and outright distortion, but yet mixed with a couple of hard facts.  Like for example, denying that Codelco only has experience with large scale mining in the driest desert in the world.  They went out of their way to disprove this by saying that they have experience with the Andina mine,  a mining project in another area of Chile that is not the Atacama Desert, while skipping over the fact that except for this mine, all their other mines are in the Atacama, the planet’s driest desert.  Trying to compare the ecosystem where their Andina mine to the Toisan Range is ludicrous, unless you didn’t know that it rains less than 10% of what it rains in the Toisan, that there are no communities directly affected by the mine (as in having to relocate), and that of course, it is a high-alpine impoverished ecosystem without any forests, and whose biodiversity can’t hold a candle to the biodiversity of a neotropical cloud forest. The government officials listening also didn’t know that there is a growing opposition to the expansion of the Andina mine due to water issues, and that the mine’s expansion will impact several glaciers (see links below).  What were these guys thinking, that no one would check their assertions???

 But the above distortion and slip ups were only the beginning.  When asked how many wells would be drilled and their depth during the exploration phase, they avoided answering by lying.  They claimed that they didn’t know and that perhaps Enami knew, and that  anyway that data will be established in the Environmental Impact Study, when in fact, it needs to be precisely established before the Study is undertaken in order to understand the potential impacts, and try to avoid or mitigate them.  Codelco, it should be pointed out, is the “expert” mining company; Enami hardly knows where the hell they are standing.

 Incredibly, they started the meeting by treating the Municipally officials like a bunch of sheep when they avoided mentioning that the authorization they needed (and received back in Feb.) from the Municipality was based on two criteria. They only mentioned the one criteria which calls for the local government to disclose whether the mining concessions affects populated centers.  They conveniently omitted to mention that the other, more important criteria, bases approval on how mining affects the development plans of the County.  Mining is prohibited in the local government’s development plans and by a local Ordinance that prohibits affectation of native vegetation by industries, these being the main reasons why it was so outrageous that the local government  didn’t oppose Enami’s miming plans, and the legal reason it was opposed by the four of the nine Council persons.

 The mining officials also implied that the phase they want to undertake is prospection, not exploration.  There is a world of difference between the two and the impacts they create. Prospection is basically taking rock samples from the surface, and water and sediments from rivers and streams.  There is no drilling or digging; no use of chemicals, and no machinery involved.  Exploration includes slashing new trails or roads into pristine forested areas to transport the drilling equipment in order to drill 4-6 inch diameter wells hundreds of meters deep all the while diverting water from the streams to mix with chemicals to keep the drill bit from overheating and mucking up.  The damage can be severe, as in the case of the Junín river which is still being contaminated by arsenic welling up from deep underground aquifers courtesy of wells drilled by the Japanese in the 1990’s (see image above).    Of course, they also threw in their bit (as all mining companies do) of using the latest technology, and that this is the mining of the new century, and so forth and on.  One of the more laughable parts of the presentation came when they tried to sell the idea, over and over again, of Responsible Mining and that they were different, and would be absolutely transparent, etc.  Well, so be it; the government of Cotacachi got an eye and earful of the Transparency that the new Responsible Mining is pushing.   Oh, I forgot to mention that we heard about the presentation only a couple of hours before it was scheduled, thus no representative from Intag was able to rush out there to question the content of the presentation.  DECOIN did send a quickly prepared PowerPoint presentation highlighting the risks of exploration, and showing the contamination at Junín, but it was not allowed to be presented.

 So much for transparency.

 Next steps?  Codelco trying to replicate their B.S. in the communities and local government before starting the EIA (Environmental Impact Study).  Community reaction?  If history is any guide, more of the same.

 EIA Approval a “done deal”.

If history is any kind of guide, there is no question the EIA will be approved.   I recall the ridiculousness of the EIA for El Palmar (Mandariyacos area) exploratory project in which Codelco was directly involved.  This concession lies fairly close to Junín, and its EIA was approved in record time spite of outrageous mistakes and made up information, and in spite of solid opposition painstakingly argued and turned  in on time by  DECOIN and Quito-based human rights organization, CEDHU. We expect the same for this new EIA, quite possibly also done in record time, and the approval also in record time.

 I have to admit that it’s absurd to the point of hilarity when, after so many Shenanigans*, the government gets bent out of shape when the locals get pissed off and show their anger at this brand of unbelievable injustice.  The more so when mining in these areas so clearly violates fundamental human, collective and Nature’s rights enshrined in the Constitution.  Who, then, one might wonder, are the real victims of terrorism?                           (*Secret or dishonest activity or maneuvering)

 Ecuador’s Doublespeak

Now, we all know governments indulge in doublespeak, lies, distortion, shameless propaganda and outright undiluted bullshit.  Tis their nature. But this government could be raising the bar.  I was reading today how the Correa government is dead set on changing the country’s productive matrix and how they want to transform their commodity-exporting economy to one focused on providing services.  President Correa and his newly elected vice president, George Glas, have repeatedly spread this interesting bit of, well you fill in the blank: ……..


This comes out of one side of the mouth, while from the other comes out marching orders for the large-scale (Chinese owned), copper mine in the biodiverse Condor Range to go ahead, and starting orders for the Junín mine as well as gold mining in the nearby and equally diverse Noroccidente (across the river from Junín in Pichincha Province).  All three sites are exceptionally biologically diverse; all three rich in water resources, all three have several local communities around the mining sites, and all three have dozens of protected species facing extinction and huge ecological tourism potential.  And, yes, there is firm opposition in all three; the more so in Intag and the Noroccidente. This is just one very specific example of the New Order of Doublspeak,, for more you can check out my article, Green Washing Run Amok in the Andes at:

 More next week-



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