BRIEF HISTORY OF RESISTANCE TO MINING IN INTAG- BREVE HISTORIA DE LA RESISTENCIA A LA MINERIA

By , January 13, 2010
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A brief history oF RESISTANCE TO MINING in INTAG, Ecuador

(DECOIN August 2010)

Exploration for metallic minerals intensified in the Junín area with the arrival of Bishimetals in the early 1990s. Junín is a community located in Intag, a 1,500 km2 expanse of cloud forests and farms in northwestern Ecuador (Cotacachi County, Imbabura Province). Bishimetals, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation, received financing from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to explore for minerals in Junín. The effort led to the discovery of large deposits of copper and other minerals in the Junín-Cuellaje project area, located in the exceptionally biodiverse Toisan Range.

Interest in the mining potential of Intag was further fanned by the Project for Mining Development and Environmental Control (Spanish acronym: PRODEMINCA), financed with a loan from the World Bank (now part of Ecuador’s foreign debt) and implemented in the second half of the 1990s. The principle objective of the PRODEMINCA project was to promote industrial mining in Ecuador.  It sought to achieve this goal by:  a) modifying Ecuador’s mining legislation to make it much more pro-industry; b) to produce maps of Ecuador’s mineral deposits (thus saving mining companies the time and money in locating minerals). The World Bank has provided the same “service” to dozens of so-called developing countries. DECOIN presented a formal complaint against the Prodeminca project which resulted in a full-scale investigation by the Inspection Panel.  However, by this time the project was near its end, and thus too late to modify.  One of the most troublesome aspects of the project was that it prospected in seven national parks.  This was just one of the many irregularities that came to light as a result of DECOIN’s successful challenge.

As a consequence, the changes in the mining law offered the following incentives to mining companies:  No royalty whatsoever, environmental compliance in the hands of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, the right to repatriate 100% of profits, minimal provisions designed to protect the rights of labor and communities or to mitigate and correct damage to the natural environment. The law further gave companies the right to use any and all resources within the concession needed for mining; this includes water, which is required (and contaminated) in massive quantities during mineral processing. Compensation for privately owned resources (only the subsoil minerals belong to the concession holder) is determined by the Ministry of Energy and Mines; farmers dissatisfied with the decision of this entity do not have the right to appeal to a court of law.

In 2009, Ecuador’s National Assembly approved a new mining law that eliminated many of the above economic incentives but, and in spite of widespread opposition by indigenous people, environmental organizations and communities affected by mining, the law did not prohibit large-scale mining, as was proposed by these groups.

WHAT BISHIMETALS DID DURING ITS STAY IN JUNIN

Bishimetals paid little attention to the laws of Ecuador while exploring in Junín. Among the most serious violations, the company:

1        neglected to prepare an EIS prior to exploration (the EIS quoted below was prepared for the production phase);

2        neglected to inform communities about the project;

3        neglected to consult communities affected about whether they wanted the project;

4        built its latrines right on the banks of the Junín River and dumped its garbage into the river, which happens to be the major source of water for communities downriver;

5        damaged private property during drilling;

6        contaminated the Junín River during drilling, thus causing skin diseases in the local population.

Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag (DECOIN), a local environmental organization founded in response to the mining threat, lodged repeated complaints about these and similar situations to the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM). However, employees of the MEM could never find evidence of wrongdoing.

HOW MUCH COPPER IS THERE IN INTAG?

Eventually, Bishimetals discovered mineral deposits in three of Intag’s seven townships (Parish governments). According to JICA, mineralized areas in the Toisan Range contain 318 million tons of copper ore, with a 0.7% concentration. In other words, the Toisan Range will yield a total of 2.26 million tons of pure copper. Molybdenum is also present in a concentration of 0.03%, and there are traces of gold and silver in the ore.

How much copper is 2.26 million tons? Not enough to satisfy the annual demand of China, whose citizens consume approximately three and one half million tons per year. Not even enough for the United States, where people consume 2.5 million tons per year.

ASCENDANT is saying the inferred deposit is approximately 3 times the above amount. They based this on their own “in-house” evaluation.

An interesting bit of data: on average, 75% of all minerals produced in Latin America is exported to the industrialized North. What stays in the South is the devastation resulting from the mining of those minerals. Bishimetals’ scientists predicted the devastation that Junín would suffer if the copper there were ever mined.

ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES OF COPPER MINING IN JUNIN

According to Bishimetals’ scientists, the open-pit copper mine in Junín will produce severe environmental and social impacts.

As noted, the Junín concession is located in the Toisan Range. In 2005, this area was recognized as an Important Bird Area of South America by Birdlife International.  The copper lies under farming communities and primary forests adjoining the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, one of the world’s most biodiverse protected areas. The Toisan is exceptionally rich in water resources, upon which farmers downstream rely, and its primary forests are within two of the world’s 34 biological hotspots (the Tropical Andes and the Chocó-Darien-Western Ecuadorian). Biological hotspots are areas noted for exceptional levels of biological diversity and exceptional numbers of endemic species, and their biodiversity is severely threatened.   The Andean Biological Hotspot, the area where the mine would be located, is known as biologically as the hottest of all 34 hotspots.  In 1997, the world renowned biologist E.O. Wilson wrote a letter to DECOIN pointing out the biological importance of Intag’s forests and of conserving them.

According to JICA’s preliminary Environmental Impact Study (EIS), forests, farms and water resources throughout the Toisan Range would be severely impacted by the planned copper mine. Among the environmental impacts predicted by Bishimetals’ scientists:

1        massive deforestation leading to drying of the local climate and desertification (his is almost literally what the EIS says)

2        contamination of water sources by lead, arsenic, cadmium and chromium (metals associated with the copper ore) in levels up to 100 times greater than those naturally existing;

3        the flight of large mammals due to noise pollution from dynamiting the ore;

4        Impacts to the habitat of dozens of bird and mammal species in danger of extinction (including Jaguars, Spectacled Bears, Brown-headed Spider Monkey, Mountain Tapirs and several species of birds)

5        Impacts to the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve (similar to a Wilderness Area)

JICA’s scientists also predicted a series of social impacts:

1        the “relocation” of at least 100 families from four communities whose farms and homes are in the way of the proposed mine and related infrastructure;

2        the creation of a mining town of 5000 inhabitants (the largest population centers in Intag, where the largest villages are seven parish seats, each with fewer than 500 inhabitants);

3        increased crime and traffic accidents;

Scientists predicted these impacts after discovering only a small portion of the copper said to exist in the Junín concessions. It is likely that if more copper is mined, more widespread and severe impacts will result.

COMMUNITY RESPONSE

The mere presence of Bishimetals in Intag produced significant impacts. People began to learn about the impact of mining on forests and communities. Then, alarmed by what they learned, people began to organize. Thus was DECOIN founded. Through DECOIN, often in coordination with other national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the fields of human rights and the environment, residents in the communities immediately threatened and throughout Intag began to mobilize.

Local opposition to the mining project finally resulted in the burning of Bishimetal’s mining camp on May 15, 1997. Hundreds of local residents from seven communities participated in the protest. The government singled out three community leaders for prosecution. Eventually the charges were dropped. Finally, after recommending that further studies be done in the hope of identifying more copper and thus making the mine more attractive to investors, Bishimetals pulled out of the project.

Victory was sweet, while it lasted.

RESISTANCE TO MINING GROWS

Between 1997 and 2002, in spite of the absence of an immediate threat, the opposition to mining in Intag increased dramatically. This was due, primarily, to the growing awareness about how human well-being requires a healthy natural environment and about the destructive nature of mining, in social, economic and environmental terms. DECOIN was key in creating this awareness, and also in creating and/or supporting alternatives to mining, such as the Río Intag Agroartesanal Coffee Growers Association (AACRI), women’s craft groups and community tourism projects. During this same period, the Cotacachi County Government passed an ordinance declaring Cotacachi an “ecological county” where mining and other activities incompatible with the conservation of natural resources are forbidden.  DECOIN was the instigator for this unique local law, which sets down the basic plan for a sustainable economic and social base in Cotacachi.

As a result of environmental consciousness raising, Intag was ready for the next round in the anti-mining struggle: the Ministry of Energy and Mine’s (MEM) auction of the Junín concessions. In spite of protests by the presidents of the six parish governments of Intag, most community boards and more than 20 organizations working in the county, the MEM not only went ahead with the auction on August 15, 2002, but awarded the concession to Roque Bustamante, the only bidder, a trafficker in mining concessions, who paid $18,005 for the right to mine 7,000 hectares for 30 years.

The mayor of Cotacachi, with the backing of parish governments, grassroots organizations and the majority of residents, took the MEM to court in 2003. According to the plaintiff, the auction violated article 88 of Ecuador’s constitution* which requires that local communities be consulted before the onset of activities that are likely to affect the natural and social environment. The judge who heard the case agreed. Bustamante appealed to the nation’s Constitutional Tribunal. Two of the three judges on the panel assigned to the case once again decided in favor of county government and the communities of Intag, but because it was not a unanimous decision, the case went to the court’s full nine-judge bench. There, after less than 24 hours, five judges decided against the county and in favor of the defendant, which by this time is a Canadian mining firm, Ascendant Exploration, the company to which Bustamante his sold rights to the concessions in Junín while judicial proceedings to decide the legality of the auction were underway.

*In 2008 Ecuador approved a new Constitution which stills calls for community consultation.

IN MAY OF 2005, the Municipality of Cotacachi presented another lawsuit in the Administrative Court to have the concessions overturned, using similar arguments.

On September 2006, the president of Junin presented yet another constitutional injunction against the Junin mining project asking the courts to stop the government from approving Ascendant’s Environmental Impact Study. The final resolution is still pending.

One of the legal remedies pending is to take the case to the Organization of American State’s Interamerican Commission for Human Rights.

AND NOW WE HAVE ASCENDANT

As noted, Roque Bustamante sold his rights to the Junín mining concessions to Ascendant Exploration, a company based in Quito whose main objective, according to their web page, is to “hold” mining concessions for foreigners. The parent company is Ascendant Holdings, based in the Caribbean islands of Turks y Caicos. Later on, yet another Ascendant was created: Ascendant Copper** Corporation, with the objective, according to the company, of mining Junin’s copper.  Ascendant, it is worth noting, is too small to open a mine as large as the one in Junín. DECOIN suspects their real goal is to try to destroy the opposition to the project and then sell the concession to one of the “majors.”

**In 2008, Ascendant Copper Corporation changed its name to Copper Mesa Mining Corporation

Ascendant’s arrival has coincided with conflicts in the communities directly affected and throughout Intag. Here are just a few examples of clashes between anti-mining residents and company supporters.

1        Ascendant employees tried to establish a camp in Junín’s community forest reserve contrary to the wishes of residents; they were forced to leave by a women’s group from Junín.

2        Numerous death threats to anti-mining activists.

3        In November 2004, three anti-mining residents, including a woman who heads a crafts group, were assaulted by bodyguards employed by pro-mining ex congressman during a public meeting organized by Ascendant. The attacks occurred when the bodyguards tried to forcefully take a camera away from one of the victims containing a photo of General Villacis.

4        DECOIN and some of its members have received death threats and have been victims of a nasty smear campaign which includes a web page intended to discredit the environmental organization’s members.

5        CODEGAM, the false organization created by Ascendant, bussed dozens of people to the Cotacachi Municipality in April 2005 to violently demonstrate against the Mayor for supporting the opposition to mining.

6        In October of 2005, CODEGAM disrupted a public assembly called by the Garcia Moreno Parish government, forcing the president of the Parish to cancel the event.

7        On several occasions, CODEGAM followers blocked roads when community leaders and organizations opposed to mining tried to meet.

8        LAWSUITS: Ascendant initiated over a dozen lawsuits to date, in its strategy to intimidate and wear out the opposition, including one against the Periódico INTAG  for a million dollars, which the company dropped a few months later.

9        Lawsuit presented against Carlos Zorrilla 2 days after Ascendant’s camp was torched by local residents, by a man had sold his land to the company, accusing Mr. Zorrilla of threatening him and others that if they sold the land to the company they would all be killed (this too was dropped)

10    Several lawsuits presented by the company or its employees against anti-mining activists as a result of actions taken by community members to protect their lands and their rights. In total 12 lawsuits were presented against community activists, the four that came to trial were won by activists, and all of the accused in all the lawsuits were amnestied by the national assembly in 2008, as part of a general amnesty affecting hundreds of Ecuadorian environmentalists fighting against mining, logging, large-scale damns and petroleum activities.

11    Completely false accusations filed by Leslie Brooke Chaplin against Carlos Zorrilla in July 2006 for supposedly instigating a crowd to steal Ms Chaplin’s camera and assaulting her. It is believed Ms Chaplin was working for the company at the time of the accusation.  She left for the US shortly after filing the malicious lawsuit.  The false accusations led to arrest and search warrants issued against Carlos, and resulted in a police raid to Carlos’ house early in the morning of 17 of October, where the police planted a gun and drugs in his house. Carlos was not home at the time of the raid and was able to go into hiding. The incident took place in front of the Ministry of Energy and Mines where about 400 Intag residents were demonstrating to pressure the Ministry to force Ascendant to leave the Intag area. (2008 update:  on July of 2008, the judge overseeing the theft and assault case ruled the lawsuit presented by Chaplin was MALICIOUS and reckless.  The ruling opens the way for Carlos to sue Chaplin for damages, and for the courts to carry out a full-scale investigation into who really was behind the judicial set-up against him.

July 2006 saw the presence in the Junin areas armed personnel identifying themselves as members of the Ecuadorian Army Corps of Engineers.  Some of these persons were involved in death threats against a local community activist.  When this was denounced to the heads of the Corps of Engineers they said they did not send anyone to the Intag area and are investigating.  Decoin has denounced this new human rights violation to human rights organizations and the nation’s ombudsman.  This is only the latest of many instances of intimidation community and Decoin activists have suffered in the past few months.

Ascendant’s strategy to convince locals that mining has included all kinds of false offers to communities and organizations.  According to an earlier $16.5 million “community development proposal” mining will bring only good things to Intag. The project includes 30 kilometers of road building and maintenance; new bridges over two rivers; a fully equipped and staffed health clinic; an ambulance; 1,000 new homes; computers for 37 grade schools; a new high school, and training in organic agriculture. Needless to say, the project was tied in to the community’s acceptance of the mining project.

TO DO SOME OF THEIR DIRTY WORK, Ascendant created the false “community development” organization, CODEGAM, which has been accused of all kinds of divisive and illegal actions by local residents.  CODEGAM publicly admitted in 2005 that all their funding came from Ascendant Copper Corporation (July 2005 El Comercio Article).  As of August 2006, Codegam was inoperable because of in-fighting, and in early 2007, it broke off relations with the company, citing unwillingness to comply with previous agreements with the company.  As of September 2007, CODEGAM  was replaced by ODI, another company-made “development organization”.

POLITICAL ACTIVITIES.  In one of their first assemblies, CODEGAM publicly called on its followers to not respect the Mayor of Cotacachi; called for the creation of a new Municipality; asked Ascendant to stop all negotiations with the Municipality of Cotacachi;  asked that Mr. Zorrilla (at the time Decoin’s president) and three other foreigners be expelled from Ecuador.  Afterwards, using Ascendant funds, they paid for soccer uniforms with a message supporting the creation of a new Municipality.  Furthermore, there is evidence that Ascendant gave money to a political party in the Intag area who supported mining.

INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN: Local opposition is not the only strategy against the mining project.  In May 2005, DECOIN, along with Friends of Earth Canada and Mining Watch Canada presented a claim against the mining company for violation of the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.  In January of 2006, we decided to withdraw the complaint because we felt there was a total lack of willingness and transparency in the process carried out by Canadian authorities.

The Toronto Stock Exchange: In spite of a determined campaign by DECOIN, Friends of Earth Canada and Mining Watch Canada to alert the regulators in Canada in charge of overseeing listing in the Canadian Stock Exchanges of all the irregularities related to Ascendant Copper (Copper Mesa) Corp, they allowed it to go public in November 2005*.  This includes dozens of official documents from community presidents, the Mayor of the County of Cotacachi, a prestigious US law firm, pointing out innumerable instances of misinformation in the prospectus meant to mislead potential investors.  To illustrate, the prospectus wildly under reported the magnitude of the opposition by most local communities and the government of Cotacachi to the mining project and to the presence of the mining company.

* In 2009, a lawsuit presented by Intag residents against the mining company and the Toronto Stock Exchange was initiated. In 2010, the community activists lost their first round in court when the judge threw the case out.  The plaintiffs appealed in August 2010.

Chalguayacu Bajo, December 10th 2005

The fact is that the opposition is so fierce that it led to the burning down of Ascendant’s mining camp on the 10th of December 2005.  Close to 300 local residents from approximately 15 communities gathered in Chalguayacu Bajo that morning and assumed all responsibility for the collective action.  No arrests were made, but Ascendant officially asked the district prosecutor to investigate, and named 24 local residents as possible guilty parties. In addition it named DECOIN’s Carlos Zorrilla as the brains behind the torching of the camp.  It’s important to point out that no one was hurt during the deed, and absolutely nothing was stolen from the premises.  To date (August 2006), the legal process is still in the investigative phase, and the case may soon go to court, with four of the most effective community activists still named in the lawsuit.

TO DATE  and thanks to local opposition, Ascendant Copper (Copper Mesa) Corporation has been unable to access the key mining areas to carry out the Environmental Impact Study necessary for them to do the exploration.  Every time they’ve tried, community members from Junín and other nearby communities have stopped them.  In early January 2006, the company claimed they were ready to undertake the long-awaited Environmental Impact Studies by first going to the communities to get their input.  However, the communities most affected by the mining project have stated they do not want the mining company on their lands (see April update below).

Community members from several communities adjacent to the mining area have expressed their intent to continue stopping the mining projects, and keep doing whatever it takes until Ascendant leave.

CODEGAM officially broke relations with Ascendant on February 17, 2006, and at one point wanted to join with the anti-mining forces to force Ascendant to leave Intag.  CODEGAM called on several government institutions to investigate Ascendant, and to revoke its mining concessions.    CODEGAM was officially disbanded in 2006.

May 20th 2006, nearly 800 men, women and children, joined all seven Parish presidents, as well as legitimate representatives from most of Intag’s communities and NGO’s in a regional Assembly, where firm anti-mining measures were adopted, including asking Ascendant to leave Intag.  The company, as was to be expected did not abide by this massive demonstration of rejection.

SUCCESSFUL MARCH TO QUITO.  On July 12 and 13th 2006, approximately 600 intag residents traveled to Cotacachi, and then to the nation’s capital, to march to the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the offices of the company, to let the Ministry and the rest of Ecuador know they will not allow mining in Intag.  The protesters were led by Parish government presidents and the indigenous Mayor of Cotacachi.  The Minister met with a delegation and promised to make sure the company was complying with all laws, and force it to abandon the project if not.

September 2006:  The government of Imbabura Province voted to ask the national government to stop Ascendant from carrying out any exploration or exploitation activities within the Junin mining concession.  With this decision, all local governments having any jurisdiction over the Junin mining project have publicly announced their opposition to Ascendant Copper (Copper Mesa) Corporation’s mining project.

Using the courts: In an effort to intimidate the opposition, approximately 12 criminal lawsuits were filed by Ascendant (now Copper Mesa Mining Corporation) and/or its employees against approximately 50 community members opposed to the mining project.  (As stated above, in 2008 Ecuador’s National Assembly issued an Amnesty, effectively ending all the lawsuits against hundreds of environmental defenders in the country, including all of Intag’s residents facing lawsuits)

OCTOBER 2006: In October 2006, 19 heavily-armed police raided the home of Carlos Zorrilla based on trumped up charges filed by a person believed to have been working for the mining company.  The police took advantage of the raid to steal hundreds of CD’s with personal information, as well as information on Carlos’ environmental work with DECOIN and personal possessions. One of the police also planted a gun and some drugs in his home, leading to more criminal charges.  Carlos avoided arrest until the arrest warrant was revoked. On April 2007 the charges were dropped for lack of evidence

In July 2008, the court ruled the original lawsuit against Carlos was malicious. And, in late 2008, he contacted human rights organizations to begin legal measures to try to discover the authors of the judicial set up against him (see below for more details).

For accounts of the police raid see:  www.counterpunch.org/zorrilla10262006.html

www.cedhu.org/html/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=360 (Spanish)

www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=13&ItemID=11281

EVENTS OF NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER 2006

November 2006

On November 1st, about 50 persons carrying machetes, tear gas and attack dogs, tried violently to go into the Barcelona-Cerro Pelado area. Despite the risk of confronting paramilitaries, who used the tear gas against unarmed community members (including a 3-year-old child) the communities stopped them. In the struggle, Vicente Quiguango, of the Villaflora community was run-over by a vehicle belonging to the company. Some of the paramilitaries in this incursion would again be seen in Intag 30 days later.

THE USE OF PARAMILITARIES

On December 2, 2006 several dozen armed guards tried to gain entry to Ascendant’s concessions. They were stopped at the Junin road control, which was manned by community members, and were told they could not proceed any further. Without any provocation whatsoever the guards, led by the international security firm Honor and Laurel, used pepper spray and fired their guns indiscriminately at the unarmed community members, wounding one of them in the leg (the attack was videotaped and photographed).  The attack was repelled by the communities, and three days later 56 of the estimated 120 armed guards thought to be in the area, were captured by over 100 of the nearly 300 Intag residents who by then had arrived to Junin from all parts of Intag to support the community.  The guards were all ex-military. The company also hired an army helicopter to provision the guards with food.

Ascendant later claimed they didn’t hire the guards, who the Quito-based human rights organization CEDHU, labeled paramilitaries, but that they were hired by Falericorp, a company contracted by Ascendant to supposedly work on agricultural projects.  Later it was found that Falericorp was not only not an agricultural company, but that they were operating illegally in the country since 2004.  The same was discovered about Honor and Laurel, and most organizations or companies Ascendant’s hired to work in Intag.

More aggressions: On the 6th of December, a large delegation composed of nearly 300 persons from Intag and the highlands of Cotacachi along with the Mayor of the county and the governor of Imbabura province were viciously attacked by crowd of about 50 pro-mining persons, when they were on their way to the community of Junin to officially receive the captured guards.  The pro-mining crowd threw thousands of rocks, Molotov cocktails, burning tires and shot at the delegation, wounding several of them (including two Decoin representatives)  In order to avoid an escalation of the violence, the trip was cancelled.  Three days later, representatives from the national government, as well as the Mayor of Cotacachi, arrived by helicopter in Junin and the 56 guards were turned over. Later, as some of Intag’s residents were leaving this event in Junin, pro-mining personnel attacked them, wounding three of them with machetes, and sticks.  ((None of the illegalities committed by the paramilitaries or Falericorp were ever investigated))

(For more information on the events that took place  November and December 2006, please see www.decoin.org)

March 2007:  Community representatives turned over the guns taken away from the paramilitary force in December of 2006 to police officials in the village of Chalguayacu Alto. One of the police officials expressed his grave concern over the threat of paramilitarization and of Ecuador possibly becoming another Colombia (the illegality of the guns were never investigated)

April 2007:  In March, the opposition peacefully took over Ascendant’s camp in Chalguayacu Bajo, and the company was forced by the government to reduce its workforce by 70% as a consequence of community pressure. The communities then turned over the guns confiscated from the armed paramilitaries to government officials, and agreed with the government to take down its road controls.  The company, however, was prohibited by the communities from entering the mining site. Ascendant’s Environmental Impact Study has not yet been approved, and it’s highly unlikely it will.

On July 2007, Polivio Pérez was nearly lynched by a mob comprised, in part, of Ascendant Copper (Copper Mesa) employees. He was saved by the presence of the police, but the mob destroyed his motorcycle. Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action letter in reaction to this incident, and presently (Sept 2007) As a consequence, Polivio had to have police protection at his home for several months.

On September 2007, charges against Carlos Zorrilla were dropped for both, the original robbery, and illegal possession of firearms charges due to lack of evidence (see item number 11 for an update into these lawsuits)). And, on July of 2008, the judge overseeing the theft and assault case ruled the lawsuit presented by Chaplin was MALICIOUS and reckless.  The ruling opens the way for Carlos to sue Chaplin for damages, and for the courts to carry out a full-scale investigation into who really was behind the judicial set-up against him.

The Mining Mandate:  In April of 2008, the National Assembly issued the Mining Mandate, with annulled 88% of Ecuador’s mining concessions, including Ascendant Cooper’s concessions in Intag.  Lately, the company switched continents, and is focusing its activities on an abandoned Arizona copper mine.  In the meantime, the company’s shares have lost approximately 98% of their initial value (as of January 2009).

Although the Mandate set back the mining agenda for almost all of transnational mining companies, it is very important not to be lulled into a false sense of security.  I, for one believe that the companies (not necessarily Copper Mesa) will try to take advantage of the political situation (a pro-mining president for example) and possibly fund the campaign of key politicians in the upcoming elections (April and June 2009) in order to regain their concessions and push the mining development model on the people of Ecuador.  However, there has never been so much resistance to mining as there is presently, and I strongly believe that if a mining company were to be successful at getting back the concessions, that they will be stopped by the communities.

Victory at last?

Based on the mining mandate, and bowing to years of community pressure, on November 2008 the government finally annulled Copper Mesa Corporation mining concessions in Intag.  Though the company has been absent from the area, it apparently told its ex-workers that they would soon return to finish the mining project. The false promise has maintained tensions alive in Intag.  As of January 2010, DECOIN is not aware that there are any active mining concessions in Intag, and some government spokespersons have publicly said that there will be no mining in Intag. However, there are no lack of mixed signals coming from the Correa government, and in February 2010, the new head of the state-owned mining company included Junin in the list of areas of interest.  In spite of these kinds of statements, it seems, at least for now, that the resistance was successful at stopping large-scale mining development in Intag.

Late 2008 and early 2009, Ecuador’s National Assembly approved a new constitution and a new mining law. The passing of the mining law provoked wide-scale anti-mining manifestation in which the country’s indigenous sector joined with the rest of civil society to express their dissatisfaction with the law.   It was the one of the few times in Ecuador’s history that an environmental issue raised has so much public discontent and protests, and one of the few times that the indigenous people joined so forcefully with the non-indigenous and environmental groups to publicly manifest their discontent.

The TSX lawsuit. In March 2009 Intag three residents formally presented a 3 billion dollar lawsuit against the Toronto Stock Exchange for human rights violations stemming from the 2006 paramilitary attack and subsequent actions against activists.  The lawsuit was presented in Canada, and is the first of its kind against a stock exchange.  The activists (Marcia Ramirez, Israel Pérez and Polibio Pérez) also sued the mining company and two of its directors for 90 million dollars. (see www.ramirezversuscoppermesa.com)

On May of 2010, the Ontario court hearing the arguments in the lawsuits threw it out of court.  The plaintiffs, through their lawyers, have appealed the decision.

And it goes on……..On March of 2010, ECSA, a subsidiary of Canadian-based Corriente Resources, financed a documentary that disparages a documentary released in 2009 on Ecuador’s anti-mining struggle called “A Cielo Abierto. Derechos Minados” (“Rights Undermined in the Open Sky”).  The film has been translated into several languages and has won several international awards.  The ECSA film called “A Response to a Contaminated Documentary” disparages and slanders the documentary and some of the activists involved in the anti-mining struggle in the south of Ecuador (hundreds of miles from Intag), but it also uses up about 50% of the time to slander me.  The producer takes a guide* I and others wrote for communities to protect themselves from extractive industries, and tries to link me to violent activities that took place in the south three years BEFORE the guide was published, and clearly insinuates that I am a terrorist.  So, I’m suing them starting May 2010.

(*the guide is called: Protecting Your Community Against Extractive Industries– translated into several languages)

Huge Victory: Perhaps the biggest news so far in 2010 has been the decision taken by the Toronto Stock Exchange on January to (finally) delist Copper Mesa Mining Corporation!! What this unique victory means is that the company will not be able to trade its stock on the exchange, and their source of funds will dry up (it is due to take effect February 19th). I know of no other anti-mining struggle that has achieved a delisting.

Just what is at stake?

ALTERNATIVES TO MINING

Communities in the mining area and throughout Intag are developing alternatives to mining. For example, Junín owns a nearly 1,500 hectare forest reserve, the centerpiece of its Community Ecological Tourism project (located right over the mineralized area). Dozens of men and women from two communities run the project.  The tourism potential in Intag is huge, and helped by the area’s stunning biological diversity and scenery, plus because it is only a few hours from the touristic town of Otavalo.

AACRI- the Coffee Project. Junín, as well as the rest of Intag, also benefits from a shade-grown, fair trade coffee project, carried out by AACRI, a coffee grower’s association started by DECOIN in 1998, but now independent.  AACRI has approximately 400 members growing sustainable coffee and is growing.

WOMEN’S GROUPS:  Several groups have organized since the Mitsubishi camp bonfire seeking to institute their own form of development.  This includes several women’s groups working in sisal handicraft, hand-made soap, etc.

CASA DE INTAG:  Another DECOIN initiative born directly from this challenge, was the creation of the CASA DE INTAG.  The Fair-Trade store, situated in Otavalo, sells products only produced by organized groups in the Intag area and sells the best coffee around, all under FAIR TRADE premises.

TOISAN CONSORTIUM.  The consortium, founded in 2005, is made up of 10 of Intag’s organizations, and was created to support sustainable productive activities by working with local groups. They are heading the Intag Small-scale hydroelectric project and trying to get funding for it.

AGROECOLOGY.  Several groups and hundreds of families are involved in sustainable, or agroecological farming.

DECOIN’S COMMUNITY RESERVE PROGRAM. During the past 10 years, Decoin has helped establish 41 community-owned watershed and forest reserve in the Intag area. The project protects thousands of hectares of threatened cloud forests and its endangered wildlife, while at the same time providing clear, safe water for thousands of inhabitants.  It is one of the most successful conservation projects in the area, since the communities area actively involved in protecting their reserves. The project also helps community reforests with native species where necessary. The trees are produced by the local communities.

Intag Small-scale Hydroelectric Proposal.  This project intends to use Intag’s abundant water resources to create economic wealth for communities and local governments in a sustainable way.  The project will be managed by local communities, who will have the right to veto any one of the nine projects proposed.  Currently, HidroIntag is looking for funding to start on the first plant.

These are only a few of the many sustainable projects residents have developed in response to the mining threat. These initiatives, and the model of sustainable development being created in Cotacachi County, are supported by a County ordinance, which in 2000, declared Cotacachi County the first Ecological County in Latin America (this was also a DECOIN initiative). The Ordinance promotes local, community-based development, full respect for human rights; sustainable use of renewable resources and cultural and biological diversity, to mention a few of its objectives. In other words, a copper mine threatens far more than four communities, primary forests, endangered species and pristine rivers.

Updated by Carlos Zorrilla

DECOIN

Toisan06@gmail.com (continues below)

Intag continues to be a national and international reference to successful resistance to extractive activities.  We welcome your support to help us consolidate this inspiring model of resistance, and transformation to a truly sustainable society. Free of mining.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE ISSUES DISCUSSED IN THIS SUMMARY, check updates on www.decoin.org, and:

If you would like to get in touch with us, write to:

DECOIN:  decoin@hoy.net

There’s many other excellent articles on this issue out there in cyberspace: just google decoin and intag

There have been five excellent documentaries produced on Intag’s struggle, including:  The Curse of Copper; When Clouds Clear; and, the latest one, Under Rich Earth http://underrichearth.ryecinema.com/

Junin’s email isecojunin@yahoo.es and marcia ramirez ramirez83m@gmail.com *

* For English, contact Decoin. Also note that the Community Council and Junín cannot regularly check their emails (no nearby phones). You can copy us and we’ll try our best to contact them.

DEFENSA Y CONSERVACIÓNDECOINECOLÓGICA DE INTAG

Casilla 144  Otavalo, Imbabura Ecuador

www.decoin.org decoin@hoy.net

Tele/fax:  593 6 264 8593

DECOIN, is a grass-roots environmental organization founded in the Intag region in 1995. All of DECOIN’s members live in Intag. Our main objectives are:  to conserve the area’s unique natural resources, with emphasis on forests, biodiversity and water, and to promote and support sustainable productive initiatives. We have helped established over forty community-owned natural areas protecting water, biodiversity and forests- to mention just one of our areas of conservation work. Our most important work has been building and supporting a strong opposition to mining activities by working closely with communities, organizations and local governments, in addition to establishing strong links with the international community.

**Our thanks to Mary Ellen Fieweger for helping to write some parts of this document

——–

BREVE HISTORIA DE LA RESISTENCIA A LA MINERIA

EN INTAG, ECUADOR

MITSUBISHI Y EL BANCO MUNDIAL EN INTAG

Se inició la exploración de minerales metálicos en el área de Junín a principios de la década de los 1990, con la llegada de Bishimetals. Junín es una comunidad ubicada en Intag, una zona de bosques nublados y fincas, con una extensión de 2,200 km2 en el noroccidente del Ecuador (cantón Cotacachi, provincia de Imbabura). Bishimetals, una subsidiaria de la corporación transnacional japonesa Mitsubishi, recibió dinero de la Agencia Japonesa para la Cooperación Internacional (JICA, siglas en inglés) a fin de llevar a cabo actividades de exploración mineralógica en las concesiones mineras de Junín-Cuellaje en la cordillera de Toisán.

Interés en el potencial minero de Intag fue fomentado aún más por el Proyecto de Desarrollo Minero y Control Ambiental (PRODEMINCA), financiado mediante un crédito del Banco Mundial (dinero que ya forma parte de la deuda externa del Ecuador) y ejecutado durante la segunda mitad de los 1990. PRODEMINCA tuvo dos metas: elaborar mapas de los recursos mineralógicos del país (así evitando que las empresas mineras tuvieran que invertir su propia planta en la busca de minerales) y redactar una nueva ley minera a fin de atraer a los inversionistas extranjeros a este sector. El Banco Mundial ha ofrecido el mismo “servicio” a docenas de los denominados países en vías de desarrollo.

Gracias a la nueva ley minera, las empresas mineras gozan de los siguientes incentivos: obligaciones impositivas sumamente cómodas; cero obligación de compartir las utilidades económicas provenientes de la minería con el Estado puesto que las antiguas regalías han sido reemplazadas por patentes cuyo valor va desde un dólar a un máximo de dieciséis dólares por año por hectárea, dependiendo de la fase en que se encuentra la concesión; el derecho de repatriar el cien por ciento de las utilidades; pocas obligaciones en cuanto a los derechos de sus trabajadores o de las comunidades afectadas por sus actividades y pocos controles para mitigar o rehabilitar daños al medio ambiente. Además, la ley permite que la compañía acceda a todos los recursos necesarios dentro de la concesión, incluyendo las fuentes de agua, un recurso que se requiere y se contamina en cantidades masivas durante el procesamiento de minerales. El Ministerio de Energía y Minas (MEM) fija la indemnización que la minera pague al dueño de los recursos requeridos, y éste no tiene el derecho de apelar, en una corte civil, en caso de no estar satisfecho con el monto ofrecido.

LO QUE HIZO LA BISHIMETALS DURANTE SU ESTADIA EN JUNIN

La Bishimetals prestó poca atención a las leyes ecuatorianas mientras exploraba en Junín. Entre los delitos más serios, la compañía:

1        no elaboró el Estudio de Impactos Ambientales (EIA) requerido antes de iniciar la fase de exploración (el EIA citado más adelante en estas páginas fue elaborado para la fase de producción);

2        no informó a las comunidad sobre el proyecto minero contemplado;

3        no consultó con las comunidades afectadas;

4        construyó su letrina en las orillas del río Junín y utilizó el mismo río como botadero, así contaminado la principal fuente de agua de las comunidades río abajo;

5        dejó grandes huecos y otros daños en las fincas en donde tomó muestras;

6        contaminó el río Junín durante la toma de muestras con sustancias tóxicas provenientes de los taladros; los habitantes que se bañaron en el río mientras la compañía estaba perforando padecieron afectaciones de la piel.

Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag (DECOIN), una organización ambientalista de la zona creada en respuesta a la amenaza minera, denunció en repetidas ocasiones al MEM estos y otros problemas relacionados con la presencia de la Bishimetals. Los funcionarios del MEM nunca pudieron encontrar pruebas de las violaciones denunciadas.

¿CUÁNTO COBRE EXISTE EN JUNÍN?

Bishimetals descubrió yacimientos de minerales en tres de las siete parroquias de Intag. Según la JICA, las áreas mineralizadas en la cordillera de Toisán contienen 318 toneladas de mena de cobre, en una concentración de 0,7 por ciento. O sea, al abrir una mina de cobre en Junín, se producirá un total de 2,26 millones de toneladas de cobre puro. Además, existe molibdeno en una concentración de 0,03 por ciento y vestigios de oro y plata.

¿Qué significa 2,26 millones de toneladas de cobre? No mucho. Esta cantidad no satisfaría ni por un año las necesidades de China, cuyos ciudadanos consumen tres millones de toneladas cada doce meses, y tampoco las necesidades de los Estados Unidos, que consume  2,3 millones de toneladas anuales.

Otro dato interesante: por promedio, el 75 por ciento de los minerales producidos en América Latina se exporta a los países industrializados del Norte del planeta. Lo que queda en el Sur es la gran devastación que resulta de la minería de dichos metales. Los científicos de la Bishimetals pronosticaron los impactos nefastos que Junín sufriría si el cobre fuera sacado de la tierra.

LOS IMPACTOS SOCIALES Y AMBIENTALES QUE CAUSARÍA UNA MINA CUPRÍFERA EN JUNÍN

Según los científicos de la Bishimetals, una mina de cobre produciría severos impactos ambientales y sociales en Junín.

Como ya se ha mencionado, la concesión se ubica en la cordillera de Toisán. El cobre se encuentra debajo de comunidades agrícolas y bosques primarios que lindan con la Reserva Ecológica Cotacachi-Cayapas, una de las áreas protegidas de mayor biodiversidad en el mundo. La Toisán es muy rica también en fuentes de agua de la que los agricultores montaña abajo dependen, y sus bosques primarios están dentro del punto Candente de Biodiversidad más diverso del mundo: Andes Tropicales (Tropical Andes Biological Hotspot).  Este incluso, es el más diverso de los 34 sitios del planeta.  Los puntos candentes son áreas que contienen un índice extraordinario de diversidad biológica y un número impresionante de especies endémicas; además enfrentan graves amenazas, en muchos casos de industrias extractivas.

Según el EIS preliminar elaborado por la JICA, los bosques, fincas y fuentes de agua en toda la cordillera de Toisán serían severamente impactados por una mina de cobre. Entre los impactos pronosticados por los científicos de la japoneses constan los siguientes:

1        deforestación masiva que llevaría al secamiento del clima y la desertificación;

2        contaminación de fuentes de agua con plomo, arsénico, cadmio y cromo (metales asociados con el cobre), en cantidades hasta 100 veces superiores a los índices naturales en dichas fuentes de agua;

3        la desaparición de decenas de especies de aves, mamíferos y reptiles en peligro de extinción en la zona (jaguares, osos de anteojos, pumas, 2 especies de monos….)

4        Impactos a la Reserva Ecológica Cotacachi-Cayapas

Además, los científicos de la JICA pronosticaron una serie de impactos sociales, entre otros:

1        “Reubicación” de por lo menos 100 familias de cuatro comunidades cuyas fincas están en el sitio de la mina propuesta y la infraestructura requerida;

2        Creación de un pueblo minero de 5000 habitantes (los centros poblados más grandes de Intag son los centros parroquiales, cada uno con menos de 500 habitantes);

3        Aumento en la delincuencia y accidentes de tránsito;

4        Aumento en alcoholismo;

Estos impactos se basaron en una cuarta parte del total de cobre que la empresa Bishimetals encontró- por lo tanto, consideramos que los impactos serán mayores, y que al menos 6 comunidades serán directamente impactadas.

(La empresa minera Ascendant Copper Corporation (que se cambió a  Copper Mesa Mining Corp en el 2008),  afirma que la cantidad de cobre que existe en las concesiones es cuatro veces la comprobada por la Bishimetals. Mientras esta nueva cifra ha despertado mucho escepticismo, como explicamos más adelante, se puede suponer que la explotación de mayores cantidades del metal produciría impactos mucho más graves que los pronosticados por la Bishimetals.) (las concesiones fueron anuladas en el 2008)

LA COMUNIDAD RESPONDE

La presencia de la Bishimetals en Intag produjo impactos significativos. La gente empezó a informarse sobre las consecuencias que traería la minería a sus bosques y comunidades. Luego, preocupados por lo que habían aprendido, los moradores y moradoras comenzaron a organizarse. Así se fundó la DECOIN. Mediante esta organización local, en muchas ocasiones con el apoyo de otras ONG de derechos humanos y ambientalistas en el ámbito nacional e internacional, se movilizaron las personas de las comunidades directamente amenazadas y de la zona entera.

La oposición local al proyecto minero resultó en la quema del campamento minero de la Bishimetals el 15 de mayo de 1997. Centenares de habitantes de siete comunidades participaron en la protesta. El gobierno decidió enjuiciar a tres líderes comunitarios. Eventualmente, el juicio fue sobreseído por falta de pruebas. Y finalmente, después de recomendar que se hagan más estudios a fin de descubrir más cobre para que la mina fuera más atractiva para los posibles inversionistas, la Bishimetals abandonó el proyecto.

Las fuerzas de resistencia habían triunfado. Por lo menos por el momento.

LA RESISTENCIA A LA MINERÍA CRECE

Entre 1997 y 2002, y pese a la ausencia de una amenaza inmediata, la oposición a la minería en la zona de Intag creció de manera dramática. Esto se debe, principalmente, a la creciente conciencia de cómo el bienestar humano depende de un ambiente natural saludable, y también de los conocimientos adquiridos en cuanto a la naturaleza destructiva de la minería, en términos sociales y económicos.  DECOIN fue clave en crear esta conciencia y también en crear y/o apoyar las alternativas a la minería que se estaban dando en la zona, como, por ejemplo, la Asociación Agroartesanal de Caficultores Río Intag (AACRI), grupos de artesanas y proyectos de turismo comunitario. Durante este mismo período, el Consejo Municipal aprobó una ordenanza que declara a Cotacachi “Cantón Ecológico” y por ende prohíbe la minería y otras actividades no compatibles con la conservación de los recursos naturales.  Dentro de las alternativa productivas, el turismo ecológico de Junín es una de las más importante, pues involucra directamente la población de la comunidad más en riesgo de desaparecer en caso que se desarrolle la minería en Junín.

Como resultado de estas actividades de educación ambiental, Intag estaba lista para la siguiente ronda de la lucha contra la minería: la subasta por parte del Ministerio de Energía y Minas (MEM) de las concesiones de Junín. Pese al rechazo por parte de los presidentes de las seis gobiernos parroquiales de la zona, la mayoría de cabildos y más de 20 ONG que trabajan en el cantón, el MEM no solo dio luz verde a la subasta del 15 de agosto de 2002 sino que le otorgó la concesión a Roque Bustamante, el único oferente en la subasta. El señor Bustamante pagó $18.005 para el derecho de minar una extensión de 7.000 hectáreas.

El alcalde de Cotacachi, el economista Auki Tituaña, con el apoyo de las juntas parroquiales, organizaciones de base y la mayoría de los habitantes, entabló un juicio en contra del MEM en 2003. Según la demanda, se violó el artículo 88 de la Constitución de la República del Ecuador al con contar con el criterio de las comunidades al otorgar el estado las concesiones mineras sin consultar con las comunidades que serían afectadas en términos sociales y ambientales por las actividades propuestas. El juez que decidió el caso estaba de acuerdo. Pero el señor Bustamante y el Ministerio de Energía y Minas apelaron al Tribunal Constitucional. Frente a esta instancia judicial, en un primer momento dos de los tres jueces asignados al caso fallaron de nuevo a favor del Gobierno Municipal y las comunidades inteñas. Pero debido a la falta de unanimidad, el caso pasó automáticamente al pleno del Tribunal y allí, en menos de 24 horas y en vísperas de Navidad, cinco de los jueces decidieron 5 votos a 4 en contra del amparo. Hasta eso, la concesión minera  ya había sido vendida la empresa Ascendant Exploration, antes de que se terminara el proceso judicial.

En vista de este hecho, y en vista de la falta de interés manifestado por parte de las autoridades nacionales en garantizar el derecho constitucional de la consulta previa, la gente de la zona minera ha decidido llevar su caso a la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos de la Organización de Estados Americanos.

Y AHORA TENEMOS LA ASCENDANT

Como ya se indicó, Roque Bustamante vendió sus derechos a las concesiones de Junín a la Ascendant Exploration, S.A. Esta empresa es una subsidiaria de Ascendant Holdings Ltd. y fue creada en Quito en 1999. Ascendant Holdings, por su parte, está registrada en las islas caribeñas Turks y Caicos. Según su página Web, “Ascendant Holdings Ltd. es una compañía mediana, de rápido crecimiento y de clase mundial dedicada a la exploración minera”.

Según un boletín de prensa emitido el 13 de octubre de 2004 por la compañía, Ascendant Holdings decidió disponer sus concesiones cupríferas de Junín y Chaucha bajo una nueva compañía, Ascendant Copper Corporation, con sede en la provincia canadiense de Colombia Británica.  A pesar de una campaña informativa orientada a informarles a las autoridades canadienses sobre la empresa y sus actividades en la zona de Intag, en noviembre del 2005 la empresa fue autorizada para vender sus acciones en las bolsa de valores de Toronto.

La llegada de la Ascendant a Intag coincide con el inicio de conflictos en las comunidades directamente afectadas y en toda la zona. A continuación, unos pocos ejemplos de los choques que se han dado entre personas en contra de la minería y las que apoyan a la compañía:

1        Los empleados de la Ascendant intentaron establecer un campamento en la reserva comunitaria de Junín, pese al rechazo de los/as moradores/as; fueron obligados a salir por un grupo de mujeres de la comunidad.

2        Las amenazas de muerte dirigidas a líderes comunitarios se han convertido en el pan de cada día.

3        En noviembre de 2004, tres personas opuestas a la minería, entre ellas, una mujer que encabeza un grupo de artesanas y un voluntario español, fueron atacadas por los guardaespaldas del ex diputado Ronald Andrade, quien apoya abiertamente a la minería; el acontecimiento tuvo lugar durante una reunión organizada por la Ascendant cuando el voluntario tomó unas fotos del General Villacís, funcionario de Ascendant en Intag.

4        Se lanza una campaña de desprestigio en contra de la DECOIN; dicha campaña incluye una página Web llena de calumnias en contra de los miembros de esta ONG ambientalista y de líderes comunitarios.

5        La minera ha iniciado varios juicios como parte de su estrategia de intimidar a la oposición, incluyendo uno contra el periódico INTAG por injurias calumniosas, donde al medio comunitario la empresa transnacional se le pedía un millón de dólares en daños y perjuicios. El caso fue resuelto entre las partes.

6        Injerencias en los gobiernos locales.  El Municipio de Cotacachi, a través de su Alcalde, el Economista Auki Tituaña, ha denunciado numerosas veces las ilegalidades y violaciones a los derechos jurídicos y colectivos por parte de la empresa minera (ver cartas adjunta del Municipio con fechas 8 de Marzo 2005, Abril, y 16 de Septiembre 2005).  Entre las denuncias consta la violenta agresión experimentada el 12 Abril del 2005 cuando la organización CODEGAM acudió con personal pagados a favor de la minería, a una sesión de gobierno del gobierno municipal de Cotacachi, donde amenazaron de muerte al Alcalde y otras personas, y efectuaron actos violentos y destruyeron bienes del Municipio.  La Alcaldía tiene un video donde claramente demuestra estos disturbios.  Cabe señalar que el CODEGAM (Corporación para el Desarrollo de García Moreno), fue creada por la empresa Ascendant Exploration en Marzo del 2004, y hasta el rompimiento de relaciones en Febrero del 2006, Ascendant fue su única fuente de financiamiento, lo cual convierte a Ascendant en cómplice de los actos descritos, y posiblemente autor intelectual.

  • CODEGAM, además de perpetuar actos vandálicos como el arriba mencionado, motivó a sus seguidores a irrespetar las autoridades Cantonales, y pidió a la empresa romper todo diálogo con el Municipio de Cotacachi- de esta manera contribuyendo a la desestabilización de un gobierno democráticamente electo (Resolución # 2 Asamblea del CODEGAM, 23 de Abril 2005; ver Desconocen al Alcalde: La Hora- Imbabura, 2 de Mayo 2005).

1        Por otro lado, y en la misma Asamblea, el CODEGAM hizo un llamado para la creación de un nuevo Cantón, en vista de la oposición del gobierno local a la minería (Resolución  # 14, Asamblea del CODEGAM, 23 de Abril 2005)

2        Para fomentar la división y desestabilizar aún más el gobierno municipal, el CODEGAM financió la elaboración de trajes deportivos con la leyenda “Cantón Intag”, y los repartió a cientos de deportistas de todas las Parroquias de Intag. El financiamiento para esta y todas las demás actividades siniestras del Codegam provenían de la empresa minera Ascendant Copper Corporation (ver artículo El Comercio 20 de Agosto 2005: El Cobre de Junín Divide a la Población). En éste artículo, el vicepresidente del CODEGAM, Jorge Pasquel, asegura textualmente que:  “Todo viene de la empresa”- refiriéndose al financiamiento del CODEGAM.  ((CODEGAM es inactiva en estos momentos, y fue reemplazada por otra supuesta organización comunitaria, denominada ODI)

LAS PROMESAS DE LA ASCENDANT

La estrategia de la Ascendant a fin de convencer a la gente local de las bondades de la minera incluye un proyecto de desarrollo para cinco comunidades locales que tiene un costo de 16,5 millones de dólares. El proyecto incluye la construcción y/o mantenimiento de 30 kilómetros de carreteras; nuevos puentes en dos ríos; una clínica de salud con equipos y personal completos; una ambulancia; mil casas nuevas; computadoras para 37 escuelas; un nuevo colegio; capacitación en agricultura orgánica. Obviamente, el proyecto se dará solo cuando las comunidades acepten a la minería.

Entre estos proyectos, cuyo costo es sumamente modesto, el que más preocupa es la formación de organizaciones supuestamente comunitarias. En Intag, la Ascendant participó en la creación de una falsa organización de desarrollo denominada CODEGAM. El propósito de estos es contrarrestar la fuerza de las organizaciones de base de Intag y del cantón entero, organizaciones que, junto con las autoridades cantorales, se oponen a la minería.

INCENDIO DEL CAMPAMENTO DE ASCENDANT.  Después de casi 2 años de atropellos, amenazas, intimidaciones y todo tipo de abusos, activistas comunitarios incendiaron el campamento de Ascendant Copper Corporation, ubicado en la comunidad de Chalguayacu Bajo, el 10 de diciembre 2005. Los cerca de 300 moradores provenientes de las comunidades aledañas al proyecto minero asumieron la responsabilidad por el hecho.  La empresa inmediatamente falsamente acusó a 24 campesinas y campesinos de hechos que jamás ocurrieron en la acción colectiva (están acusado de robo, y asalto agravado) Uno de los miembros de la DECOIN fue acusado de ser el autor intelectual.  Después de meses, la Fiscalía acusó a cinco personas por la destrucción del campamento, y el juicio continuó su trámite.  En Noviembre 16, la CORTE SUPERIOR sobresella el juicio contra los cinco.   Las comunidades terminaron ganando todos los juicios que se han ventilado en las cortes y presentados contra ellos, y todos los involucrados fueron amnistiados por un decreto de la Asamblea Nacional en el 2008.

INVASIONES DE TIERRAS.  Una de las estrategias de la empresa se concentra en comprar el mayor número de hectáreas alrededor del área minera.  Los altos precios que la empresa paga ha hecho que más de 20 personas vendan sus propiedades, y en la actualidad, la empresa es dueña de más de 1,000 hectáreas.  Una de las consecuencias de esta malograda medida, es que ha provocado invasiones de tierras baldías y no baldías por inescrupulosas personas que pretenden vender los terrenos a la empresa una vez que legalicen la adjudicación con el INDA (Instituto de Desarrollo Agrícola). Estas medidas ha aumentado la división existente entre comunidades y familias en la zona de Intag, y fue una de las razones que llevó a que los comuneros destruyan el campamento minero de la empresa en diciembre del 2005.  Octubre

Septiembre 2006.  En este mes varios empleados de la empresa fueron capturados por miembros de las comunidades por haber ingresado a tierras comunitarias.  Dos de ellos fueron retenidos por la comunidad por unos días, después de enterarse que policías, en transportado en un vehículo de la empresa, habían arrestado a dos miembros de la comunidad. Los dos comuneros permanecieron en la cárcel ilegalmente arrestados durante ocho días.  El 13 de septiembre, empleados de la empresa provocaron un enfrentamiento violento en el sector de Chalguayacu Alto, donde hubo varios heridos.  La empresa y algunos de sus trabajadores, han presentado varios juicios en contra de cerca de 20 líderes comunitarios como resultado de estas medidas de hecho.

Octubre:  El 17 de octubre, 19 policías fuertemente armados allanan la casa de Carlos Zorrilla, miembro fundador de la DECOIN.  Su esposa, hijo adolescente, y uno de sus trabajadores fueron intimidados.  Uno de los policías entró en casa de uno de los empleados sin orden de allanamiento, y le empujó e insultó. Otros cubrieron su rostro con pasamontañas.  En vista de no encontrar nada relacionado a la falsa acusación (robo de una cámara) uno de los policías coloca una arma y una sustancia (droga) en su.  Carlos Zorrilla tuvo que permanecer en la clandestinidad por un mes, tratando de desenmascarar el montaje en su contra dirigido por poderosos intereses mineros. En Junio del 2008, el fue uno de los amnistiados por la Asamblea Nacional, además que el juez de lo penal encargado de su caso dictaminó que el juicio original contra él fue de carácter malicioso

Noviembre:  Fuertes enfrentamientos se dan cuando una subcontratista de la empresa mineras intenta invadir tierras de las comunidades.  Las casi 80 personas traídas por esta empresa (felicorp), traen gases lacrimógenos, y cuatro perros enjaulados de policía. Utilizan por lo menos cinco gases lacrimógenos contra la población de Barcelona, afectando a varios pobladores, incluyendo a 2 niños de dos y tres años.  Las comunidades se unen y rechazan al intento de invasión, y capturan a 40 de los “mineros”, quienes son posteriormente entregados a la policía.  Un comunero es herido de gravedad cuando uno de los vehículos de la empresa que transportaba a los empleados, le atropella.  De los cuarenta personas que invadieron, según testigos de la zona, aproximadamente el 20% eran de la zona de Intag; los demás de otras partes, incluyendo Guayaquil y Manabí

Diciembre 2006- De nuevo choques violentos se dan cuando personal armado y contratado por la empresa minera a través de terceros (paramilitares) intentan ingresar a la fuerza por un control comunitario violentamente, dejando como resultado un herido de bala.  El enfrentamiento fue filmado y forma parte de varios videos sobre la resistencia en la zona de Intag.  En otro enfrentamiento en el bosque, 57 de estos guardias, fuertemente armados son capturados por 120 miembros de diferentes comunidades y retenidos en la comunidad de Junín durante 5 días, y entregados a funcionarios del gobierno nacional el 9 de diciembre.

En 8 de diciembre, el gobierno suspende las actividades de la empresa minera en Intag, y toma la decisión de no aprobar el Estudio de Impacto Ambiental.  La empresa, sin embargo, siguió contratando personal en la zona y su presencia continuó siendo foco de enfrentamientos entre los pobladores inteños.  Los conflictos llegaron a tal punto, que en Agosto del 2007, Amnistía Internacional emitió un comunicado llamando la atención a las amenazas y agresiones que activistas comunitarios que se oponen a la minería han tenido que enfrentar, después que un dirigente comunitario casi fue linchado por una turba en la cual se encontraban personal de la empresa minera.

Agosto 2007: la firma de abogados canadiense Klippensteins viaja a la zona de Intag para explorar la posibilidad de que algunos líderes comunitarios inicien un juicio contra la empresa y la Bolsa de Valores de Toronto.  El tema sigue pendiente y existen buenas posibilidades de que se inicie el juicio.

Septiembre 2007: el gobierno suspende definitivamente todas las actividades de la empresa minera en Intag, y le cierra las oficinas.

En Octubre 2007 Ascendant perdió 17 de las propiedades adquiridas alrededor de JUNÍN debido a ilegalidades constatadas por el INDA.

2008- La Asamblea Nacional emite el Mandato Minero, anulando a 88% de las concesiones del país. Ascendant Copper (hoy Copper Mining Corporation), no tiene presencia en la zona de Intag, a pesar que algunas personas persisten en trabajar las tierras abandonadas de la empresa minera.

Enero 2009/ La empresa pierde todas las concesiones en Intag.

Marzo 2009- Se presentó el juicio en Canadá por parte de tres inteños en contra de la Bolsa de Valores de Toronto,  por 3 mil millones de dólares, y en contra de la empresa minera Copper Mesa y tres de sus directivos por 90 millones de dólares (más información en :  www.ramirezvscoppermesa.com .  El juez canadiense rechazó el juicio, pero los tres demandantes apelaron en Junio del 2010.

2010: En febrero del 2010, la empresa minera fue expulsada de la Bolsa de Valores de Toronto, así logrando un trascendental triunfo que dejó a la empresa sin financiamiento, y sin oportunidades de conseguir más dinero.  Además, oficialmente el gobierno revertió las concesiones mineras de la empresa en Intag y el sur del país.  No se ha visto presencia de la empresa en Intag desde hace aproximadamente un año.  Este notable triunfo en la historia de lucha de comunidades en contra de empresas mineras transnacionales, sin embargo no es el fin de la pesadilla del cobre en Intag…. Porque en

Junio 2010.  El gobierno del presidente Correa anunció que pretende reactivar el proyecto minero JUNIN, el cual se llevará a cabo por la empresa minera nacional.  Hasta la fecha (Agosto 2010), no se ha visibilizado dicho proyecto.  El gobierno tiene como meta impulsar la actividad extractivista a todo costo, y aparentemente el proyecto Junin forma parte de dicho plan.

ALTERNATIVAS A LA MINERÍA

Las comunidades en el área minera y en la zona entera están creando alternativas a la minería. Por ejemplo, la DECOIN ha comprado a nombre de la comunidad de Junín una reserva de  más de 1,500  hectáreas; la reserva es la base del proyecto de turismo ecológico comunitario manejado por la comunidad (los bosques se encuentran encima del yacimiento de cobre). Aproximadamente cuarenta hombres y mujeres pertenecientes a dos comunidades manejan el proyecto. Asimismo, los caficultores de Junín y otras comunidades se han unido para crear la AACRI, cuyos miembros benefician al vender su café en mercados justos. Estos son dos de los múltiples proyectos sustentables impulsados por las inteñas e inteños en respuesta a la amenaza minera. Estas iniciativas se enmarcan dentro del modelo de desarrollo sustentable en proceso de crearse en el cantón Cotacachi. Por otro lado, el potencial hidroeléctrico de la zona ofrece una de las mejores alternativas de generar rentas para financiar proyectos de desarrollo social, y la zona avanza con la implementación de esa alternativa sustentable.

Estas son algunas de las actividades productivas apoyadas por la ordenanza cantonal, aprobada en 2001, que declara a Cotacachi cantón ecológico, el primero en América Latina. La ordenanza promueve un desarrollo sostenible, basado en el desarrollo local, con pleno respeto para los derechos humanos y la diversidad cultural, y en base a la conservación y uso sostenible de los recursos renovables, para mencionar unos pocos de los elementos que conforman la ordenanza..

En resumen, una mina de cobre amenaza las comunidades de Intag, sus bosques únicos, las especies en peligro y los ríos cristalinos. También amenaza un experimento cuya meta es la creación de un nuevo ser humano solidario y participativo, y respetuoso de la naturaleza de la que depende para su propia supervivencia.

PARA MÁS INFORMACIÓN SOBRE LOS ASUNTOS TRATADOS EN ESTE RESUMEN, VER:

La página Web de la DECOIN: www.decoin.org

Si quiere ponerse en contacto con nosotros, escríbanos en:

DECOIN:  decointag@gmail.com

Consejo de Desarrollo Comunitario, organización de base de Junín: ecojunin@yahoo.es

Existen varios documentales sobre la resistencia en Intag, incluyendo:  La Ruta del CobreDespués de la Neblina, y Bajo Suelos Ricos

DEFENSA Y CONSERVACIÓNDECOINECOLÓGICA DE INTAG

Casilla 144  Otavalo, Imbabura Ecuador

www.decoin.org

decointag@gmail.com

Tele/fax:  593 6 264 8593  /  593 6 264 8723

Nuestras oficinas se encuentran en la Parroquia de Apuela

La DECOIN es una organización de base fundada en Intag en 1995. Todos los miembros viven en la zona de Intag. Nuestros objetivos principales son: conservar los recursos únicos de la zona, sobre todo los bosques, biodiversidad y el agua, y promover y apoyar proyectos productivos sustentables con las comunidades. Una de nuestras actividades más importantes ha sido la creación y sustento de la oposición a la minería. Unos de los proyectos más exitosos de la DECOIN ha sido ayudar a crear 40 reservas naturales comunitarias.

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