Posts tagged: Intag

Pearls Before Swine: The Apalling Cost of Ecuador’s Extractivist Agenda             

By , January 16, 2018

                    Pearls Before Swine: The Apalling Cost of Ecuador’s Extractivist Agenda*                                                     Where are the voices of the international community in preventing this biological holocaust?

Carlos Zorrilla**

The original title of this text was: Pearls Before Swine: The Troubling Fate of Ecuador’s Biological Diversity

However, as I wrote and reflected on the theme, I became convinced that the loss of biological diversity, as tragic as it undoubtedly is,  is but a minor actor, in this great tragic-folly. 

For, there are  times,  a madness so disjointed with reality, so grotesque in nature, that it is impossible to comprehend it. That is, unless you buy into the  notion that money comes before everything else, including life itself.

The Biblical phrase in the title conveys the idea that it is a waste of time to discuss sacred matters with unlearned individuals. To me, however, the image it portrays reflects perfectly Ecuador’s current craze for designating tens of thousands of square kilometers of the country’s primary forests, pristine rivers and streams, as well as indigenous territories open to large-scale mining.

Something to consider at the outset is that Ecuador is one of the world’s 17 Megadiverse countries, and it is the only Andean nation free of large-scale metal mines. To add to the madness, most of the new mining concessions are within the Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot, the most diverse of the world’s 36 Hotspots.

To put all this in perspective, Ecuador has more orchids and hummingbirds than Brazil, which is 30 times larger. If managed sustainably, the country’s stunning biodiversity could easily guarantee the country’s future, plus provide significantly more employment than mining. In countries like Ecuador, mining´s rapacious nature destroys—virtually in perpetuity–a nation’s renewable resources, often leaving behind ruined landscapes, poisoned waters and social and cultural mayhem.  In the long run it also impoverishes developing countries that go down this path1,1a. Yet, the industry and corrupt governments are comfortable labeling this kind of desolation development.

But that is not all, as the Cat in the Hat would say. The mining concessions also overlap thousands of square kilometers of most of the headwaters of Ecuador’s major rivers. In fact, several of the headwaters where the concessions are situated feed rivers that are being dammed to produce hydroelectricity for export. Yes, you read that right. The sedimentation produced by massive mining projects will inevitably shorten the productive lives of these multi-billion hydroelectric projects.

Maybe it helps to put numbers to the madness: The Andean nation, has, in the last 18 months, handed over two million hectares—nearly 8% of its territory—over to mining companies. One million of those hectares are in indigenous territories. The recipients of what can only be labeled a criminal giveaway have been, for the most part, Canadian, Chilean, Australian and Chinese mining companies, enticed by the drastic deregulation and tax cuts offered by Ecuador.

Furthermore, 750,000 of these hectares overlap at least 39 protected areas called Bosques Protectores2 (Protector Forests)**. These can be private as well as public, and are legally designated by the government to carry out two primary functions: to conserve biodiversity and protect water sources. Precisely the resources that are most affected by large-scale mining in countries like Ecuador.

The Mining Imperative: By co-option if possible, but by any means

One of the most pernicious aspects of the mining imperative in places like Ecuador[,] is the utilization of all of a country’s institutions to support the government’s extractive plans. Support is too nice a word perhaps. When the offers of jobs, roads and clinics don’t convince local communities and Indigenous Peoples, the “support” morphs into outright coercion. It is then when human rights abuses take place. However, so as not to scare away investors, the governments and mining companies are especially good at creating a false sense of compliance with all laws, regulations and international treaties, plus of working hand-in-hand with local communities. It is part of the strategy of selling one of the biggest, best-funded myths of modern times: Responsible Mining.

In these kinds of extractivist regimes, and especially in those whose economies overly rely on exports of commodities, abuses are aided and abetted by a thinly-veiled totalitarian democracy, which concentrates all real power in the Executive Branch of government, typically the arm charged with implementing extractive policies and projects. The other branches, and all the ministries and other institutions under them, serve to accomplish not much more than to cover up violations and legitimize the illegitimate. The operating principle is, mining must go on. When the resistance to the projects starts to threaten the outcome of mining projects, the country will use its courts, army, police, intelligence units, and any other institution to divide, intimidate and coerce.3 Thus, in countries like Ecuador, it is a rarity when the police and military protect the protesters in socio-environmental conflicts. As for the judicial system, several Human Rights organizations have denounced the systematic criminalization of indigenous and campesino environmental and human rights defenders for their views and actions in protesting against environmental crimes4.

Such an extractivist State will do whatever it takes to keep investors happy, and to show the investors that the regime is serious about protecting their investments. In fact, countless human rights violations as well as unimaginable environmental devastation are not averted by governments precisely to comply with bi-lateral investment protection agreements. The consequences of not fully supporting the multinational companies, regardless of how many human rights abuses are being committed, can result in multi-billion dollar lawsuits against the country hosting the extractive projects.

Mining companies love to brag about their sustainable mining ideals, but they sure do cozy up to these types of governments. And they will do anything to elect them, and keep them in power.

Record-Shattering Contradictions

These are, by far, not the only contradictions and hypocrisies associated with Ecuador’s endearment toward the mining industry. Small farmers, private landowners, as well as social, productive, and environmental organizations, plus local governments, have taken pains to protect hundreds of Protector Forests in Ecuador from environmental degradation for decades. The law explicitly prohibits agriculture and ranching within these biodiverse sites, and before Correa government-introduced changes to the legislation, mining was also off limits. Now, the government expects these actors to sit by and watch them being given over to one of the most environmentally destructive activities on Earth. And, the shortsightedness doesn’t end there. These sites are the sources of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians. Many are also being used by communities for ecological tourism.

In fact, the prospect for Ecuador in this field is much greater than for countries like Costa Rica, whose economy is significantly enriched by the activity. Costa Rica prohibits large-scale mining, yet its citizens enjoy a much higher standard of living than Ecuadorians.

To illustrate some of the social and environmental costs of Ecuador’s extractivist agenda, consider the following two examples. Nearly all of the 311,500 hectares of the Kutuku-Shaimi Protective Forest in the Amazon basin has been concessioned to mining companies. All of it, without serious previous consultation with affected communities and local governments. This, in spite of the fact that more than five thousand Shuar indigenous use the forest. And, as is the case in several other protector forests, the Kutuku-Shaimi harbors species only found at this location. In the Intag region, a forest imperiled by the exploratory activities of Chilean-owned Codelco, a frog thought extinct was “rediscovered” in 2016.5 It has not been found anywhere else on Earth. The forest is currently being used by two communities for ecological tourism, an activity that would end were mining to begin; thus affecting the area’s future sustainability.

The environment and local communities are not the only ones being steamrolled by the mining imperative. Democratic values and institutions are also under siege. Prior consultation is a Constitutional right granted to communities and indigenous peoples. According to indigenous organizations, community leaders and local government officials, none of the communities within the hundreds of new mining concessions have been properly consulted to determine if mining harmonizes with the people’s livelihood. Mining also often goes directly against local government development plans; and local governments are rarely, if ever, consulted. Of the hundreds of local governments, only a handful have planned for large-scale mining in their territories.


Why would Ecuador, want to sacrifice its most important wealth; its biodiversity and cultural wealth, and curtail or ruin the opportunities for an economy to be based, at least in part, on a sustainable economic activity such as ecological tourism?  The answer lies in the greed for power, in corruption and unimaginable government waste.

Although things seem to be changing somewhat with the new government elected in April of 2017, the previous regime, led by President Rafael Correa, was characterized by enormous increase in revenues from the sale of petroleum, and subsequent wide-scale public works projects. And an almost unimaginable amount of government waste and corruption. Some of the corruption cases have lately begun to surface, but they are the very tip of the iceberg. (As I write this, Jorge Glas, Correa’s Vice President, is in jail and headed to court6, accused of taking over 16 million dollars in bribes from a Brazilian construction firm, and being a key part of a huge corruption network involving- so far- 12 other government functionaries).

To pay for the new roads, hospitals, universities, etc., the government had to go deep into debt. As the Chinese are taking most of the exportable petroleum in partial payment for deals struck with the Ecuadorian government, the arrangement is making it very difficult for the current government to use revenues from the country’s black gold. Also, and crazy as it may sound, Correa’s government asked for advanced payment for royalties on couple of the largest mining project, thus drying up that source of revenue for the new government!

It’s also a fact that the Asian giant consumes about 50% of the world’s copper thus, many of the new mining concessions are for large copper mines, several Chinese-owned. And China is, incidentally, Ecuador’s main creditor. Those credits, needless to say, do not come without strings firmly attached.7

If There is no Justice, There Will be no Peace.

The extractive path was well laid out before the current government—whose representatives are from the same political party as Correa’s—took over. In fact, most of the changes to the laws and economic incentives favoring mining corporations were already in place two years before Mr Correa made off to Belgium at the end of his term. The extreme de-regulation pushed through by his government prompted the mining industries’ feeding frenzy that led to the concession giveaway. The hundreds of mining concessions given out just before, and right after, the change of government without previously consulting with communities, inevitably will lead to numerous social-environmental conflicts. With very few exceptions, this has been the typical reaction in Latin America for centuries, and there is no reason to think it will change now or in the foreseeable future. In fact, lately the conflicts have heated up, especially around the Intag area in the north, in the province of Azuay, as well as in the Cordillera del Condor in the south. Here communities have started to push back more aggressively against what they perceive as a grotesquely unjust system in which they don’t have a voice and the government is not seen as impartial.  This is especially the case with the concessions within indigenous people’s territories, where the government, so far, has made a farce of their right to Free Prior and Informed Consent.

Money and Politics

Correa and his merry band of phony “socialists revolutionaries” so indebted the country that in spite of campaign promises to go “beyond” extractivism, they did the complete opposite: they greatly expanded it. The difference from past governments is that the Correa government focused on mining and much less on petroleum. They also needed money to keep their “socialist revolution” alive.

As a result, Ecuador has never been more in debt,8 and more unable to pay it off. The country’s embrace of mining helps to assure new creditors that the country can pay off its debt in the future based on the nation’s mineral wealth. Even if such an outcome is mostly wishful thinking.  

Concrete Craziness

Just to have a more concrete idea of the extractive craziness, in the region where I live, the Intag area of Northwest Ecuador—one of the biodiversity gems of the world, the central government has issued concessions covering about 80% of Intag’s 1500 square kilometers. In fact, my home and forest—which happens to be a Protected Forest—is within a concession!  Just in the Intag area, the concessions include within them 54 towns and villages; hundreds of streams and rivers, and thousands of hectares of primary forests. In Ecuador as a whole there must be well over one thousand towns and villages that, all of a sudden, find themselves inside mining concessions.

It is worth a pause here to reflect on the monstrous arrogance implicit in a government issuing mining licenses which include within them whole towns and villages, without previously consulting with the inhabitants. The same goes for the government’s stance toward Indigenous Peoples and their ancestral territories. You would think that any “responsible” mining company, if responsible mining companies indeed exist, would stay as far away as possible from such a mad scheme. Yet, many of the companies buying into this perversity consider themselves to be paragons of responsible mining.

Then, there is the issue of mining in super biodiverse areas. To better put the country’s biodiversity in perspective, the small environmental organizations I work for, DECOIN, has identified, to date, 105 species of mammals, birds, frogs and other animals on the IUCN list of endangered species recorded in, or in habitats like, those found within the 4,839 hectares of Intag’s Llurimagua mining concession. And this doesn’t include trees and other plants. The project, now in advanced exploration, is being developed by Chile’s Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer.

If the above are not enough reasons to question the government of Ecuador’s dysfunctional mining policies, then consider that most of Intag’s mining concessions are within the conservation buffer area of one of the world’s most important protected areas: the Cotacachi-Cayapas Wilderness Area. This official protected area is the only one of any significant size in all of Western Ecuador, and one of the most biologically important in the world.9 All of this points to the unwillingness of Ecuador meeting its international responsibilities for protecting and enhancing its biological diversity.

The Deafening Silence of the International Community

One of the mysteries of this debacle is why the large international organizations, such as Conservation International, Flora and Fauna International and the ICUN, as well as the United Nations, are not saying, or doing, more about Ecuador’s blatant disregard for its international commitments to protect its biological diversity and endangered species. The more so because some of these organizations have funded management plans for some of the protective forests now earmarked for mining. This is the case for the Kutukú-Shaimi Protective Forest´s management plan, which was funded by CARE International. As mentioned above most of its 311,500 hectares is covered in mining concessions.


On the other hand, some European countries as well as international foundations, have made it possible for Ecuador to launch and pay for the innovative Socio-Bosque program. The conservation initiative pays land owners a set price per hectare not to degrade their forests. A peculiar situation and seeming total waste of funds, given that hundreds of thousands of hectares of Socio- Bosque forests are now within mining concessions. The current head of the Ministry of the Environment in Ecuador, Tarsicio Granizo, at one time headed a conservation department for WWF, and had nothing but praise for the biodiversity bounty of the Kutukú at the time. His silence these days is particularly deafening.

On September 26th, Ecuador’s environmental, indigenous, and human-rights organizations asked the government of Ecuador to include in an upcoming national referendum, a proposition to stop mining projects that would impact the nation’s water resources, and most of the nation’s biodiverse forests and other key ecosystems. The new government, however, decided to limit the scope of the question only to officially protected areas—such as National Parks—and urban areas. The decision reveals that the current government’s extractivist agenda, so far, is not much different than that of the last regime.

The pearls being thrown before the swine are too precious, too rare. The international environmental community must find its voice and use it firmly to try to stop this travesty. Now, before it is too late.

* Title Updated January 15 2018

**Carlos Zorrilla is a resident of the Intag area of Ecuador. He is the Executive Director and co-founder of DECOIN, a small, environmental grass-roots NGO conserving Intag’s environment, resisting mining development and supporting sustainable alternatives in the Intag region of Ecuador since 1995.  DECOIN was one of 15 organizations from around the world awarded the United Nation’s 2107 Equator Prize in New York on September 17th 2017.



  1. For a brief introduction to the Resource Curse see

1a. See also

  1. “Roo Vandegrift, Daniel C. Thomas, Bitty A. Roy, and Mierya Levy; 2017.11.05 v1.0; The extent of recent mining concessions in Ecuador; Rainforest Information Center, Nimbin, New South Wales, Australia.”
  2. The recent case of the police and army assault on Shuar Indigenous communities in the Cordillera del Condoris just one example. See: o-make-way-for-giant-mine-in-ecuador



  2. The protected area ranked 161 in irreplaceability importance out of 173,461 evaluated worldwide




Update New version of 21 reasons

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By , April 23, 2015

Twenty One Reasons Why Codelco Should Stay Out of Intag (updated)

Please see the 21 reasons below the photograph of the latest infamy

Apologies for the lapse.  Life has been intense lately (more than normal)

So, Javier went home, but the appeals court held that he should have served 12 instead of the 10 months the court sentenced him to (the same day he was sentenced he was released since he had already served the 300 days in jail unjustly).  Ah, justice in Ecuador!.  There is some legal wrangling which could last a couple of months which will make it legally impossible for the judicial system to actually arrest him and send him back to prison. Until this remedy is played out he is free and living with his family in Junin, as determined as ever to stop the mining project (SEE DECOIN’S FACEBOOK FOR UPDATES- Especially the Dragons in Eden album)

The company, while Javier was in jail, made progress and are close to starting exploration- if they haven’t already.  Yes, as to be expected,  they are violating all kinds of rights.  They have, for example, taken over part of the community forest reserve land used by tourism by the community and transformed it into a mining camp(SEE IMAGE BELOW). They are getting ready to drill close to pristine rivers and streams, will affect tourism, have built and or resurrected roads without environmental impact studies, and so forth and so on, ad nauseam.. But such is how Responsible Mining takes place in primary forests in a developing countries.  It can be summed up as: the hell with the laws and Constitution, mining at all costs.  And those costs keep piling up. Victor Hugo is still on the run, 375 days after the  sham accusations and mock judicial process.  Amnesty International, the International Human Rights Federation and now  have denounced the numerous and growing abuses by the state. Human Rights Watch is also investigating.

JUNIN COMMUNITY FOREST APRIL 4 2015 (Responsible Mining in action)

Junin campamento ocupado abril 2015 policias 1a Med res

                            Twenty-One Reasons Why Codelco should stay out of Intag

April 2015 

Two decades after the resistance to mining in Intag began against a large-scale mining project, which led to the expulsion of two transnational mining companies and the creation of sustainable alternative, Chile’s mining company Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, in conjunction with Enami, the Ecuadorian state-owned mining company, is ready to being exploratory activities in one of the world’s most threatened and biodiverse forests: Intag’s Toisan Range.

I think it disingenuous when companies say “we didn’t know”; or “had we only known”, or even lamer yet:  “had the government made it clearer that…”  then they try to weasel out of assuming responsibility for their catastrophic economic, social and environmental blunders.  This then, is an attempt to draw attention to some of the hurdles Codelco, or any mining company, would face if they tried to open up a mine in Intag.

Studies and more Studies.

To justify their existence in certain projects, mining companies, when  they can afford it, hire hot-shot NGO’s to carry out interviews and studies to ascertain popular perception on mining, identify key players, and confirm that they are loved. Then they actually go ahead and base their decisions on the study’s results!  Even though they know they are lies at worst, or at best, written to please the funders.  As if an area’s complexity and attitudes could be studied in a few days or weeks.

A Brand New Century.

If there’s anyone interested in investing in Intag’s mining project reading this, you probably know- or should know- as all responsible mining companies can attest to (as well as key players like the World Bank), that support from the Executive Branch of government is not nearly enough guarantee a project’s success. You need genuine (not manufactured or self-delusional) social license issued freely, without pressures or intimidation.  In fact, national government support is no guarantee at all the project will succeed. So, do NOT bank on the government’s enthusiastic endorsement.  You’ll lose. Big time.

I am positive that if most INVESTORS were find out about all the risks and obstacles facing mining in this corner of Ecuador, they would pull out.

This, then, is one more attempt to try to inform of the reality behind the lies and distortions being generated around the Junín mining project, and just 21 of the reasons why this project, as BN Americas pointed out in 2013, is bound to fail (click here).


  1. Based on the Bishi Metals Environmental Impact Assessment of mining in Intag, and on a small (450,000 ton) copper mine (a couple of years later they inferred the existence of 5x more copper)
  1. Intag is no like the Atacama desert, where Codelco has its copper mines. Besides being super biodiverse, there are communities all over the place. According to the Study, the mining project would relocate hundreds of families from four communities.  Afterwards, the Japanese found more five times more copper, which could increase the number of communities affected by two- at the very least. Relocation of communities is more than enough to stop most extractive projects.
  1. It would impact primary cloud forests.  What’s so special about cloud forests?  Less than 2.5% of the world’s tropical forests are cloud forests. They are not only exceptionally biologically diverse- as well as severely threatened-  but they play an outsize role in protecting important headwater watersheds.
  1. The project would cause massive deforestation(in the words of the experts preparing the Study). The small mine would directly impact 4,025 hectares.
  1. The deforestation, according to the Japanese, would lead to drying of local climate, affecting thousands of small farmers (the EIA used the worddesertification). You think communities will let this happen once they truly get the picture???
  1. Intag’s forests belong to the world’s top Biodiversity Hotspot; the Tropical Andes. The scientist working on the study identified 12 species of mammals and birds facing extinction that would be impacted by the project, including jaguars, spectacled bears, mountain tapirs and the brown-faced spider monkey. (Based on incomplete studies, Decoin identified more than 30 species of threatened or endangered plants and animals, and there could be dozens more).

Every year new species are found in Ecuador’s cloud forests, and this includes the spectacular Prince Charles frog, as well as the only carnivore discovered in the Western Hemisphere in the last 35 years.  In addition, the area has several other endemic species, such as the recently discovered Shape-shifting Rain Frog (Pristimantis mutabilis), and the Black-breasted Puffleg Hummingbird, which exists in only two patches of high altitude cloud forests- one of them located in Intag.

  1. There are pristine rivers and streams everywhere within the concession.  The EIA predicted they would be contaminated with lead, arsenic, chromium, cadmium and other toxic substances.
  1. The project would, unquestionably, destroy pre-Incan Yumbo archeological sites.  This is one of the least studied cultures in Ecuador.

It would impact the Cotacachi-Capayas Ecological Reserve (one of the world’s most biologically diverse protected areas and the only large one in all of western Ecuador).

Besides these very worrying impacts identified in the Study (for a mine a fraction of what it could end up being)…  there are other significant hurdles.

Legal hassles

  1. Large-scale mining would violate the legally-binding Cotacachi County Ecological Ordinance created in 2000.  Only the Constitutional Court can rule on the validity of the Ordinance in light of the new Constitution. And the Court l has not.

Ecuador’s new Constitution demands that communities be consulted before any project impacting their social or natural environment takes place; a Constitutional guarantee that has been disregarded from day one. The Constitution also grants nature rights, and the people right to Sumak Kawsay, or a Good Life (also translatable as Harmonious Life) .  Good luck trying to convince a decent government and world opinion that open pit mining will not violate these two fundamental rights (no matter how obscenely the government decides to define the indigenous concept of a “Good Life”).  Just because a government does its best to distort the Constitution does not mean a future one will do the same.

Waning political support.

  1. One of the things the government likes to underline is that it has the area´s political support. As of February 2014 this is no longer true, as the president’s party, Alianza País, lost badly in local elections in Imbabura province, site of the mining project. In fact, Imbabura was one of the provinces where Mr. Correa’s party lost more municipalities (5 out of 6) than anywhere else in the country.   One of those Municipalities is the Cotacachi, which encompasses the Llurimagua mining concession. The new Mayor, Jomar Cevallos, is firmly opposed to mining.
  1. Opposition.

There is widespread opposition to the Intag mining project. This includes:

  1.  The new threat has actually mobilized more organization at the local, county and national level, than ever before.

Community Opposition. Many communities surrounding the mining project are still, after all these years, opposed to the project. There are some that seemingly have given their approval, though under duress and without any consultation whatsoever taken place. Proof of this is that on September and November 2013 the government tried to carry out an environmental impact study and were stopped by the communities- in spite of heavy police presence, and military in the area.

  1. Human Rights Violations.

After years of stopping dozens of attempts by government and private companies of accessing the mining concession that overlap communal land in order to carry out the environmental impact study and begin exploration, the government and Codelco only succeeded in carrying out the study in May of 2014 with the help of hundreds of police that terrorized the area for two months and violated rights, such as the right to freely circulate. To intensify the intimidation, a month earlier Javier Ramírez, president of the Junín community was arrested and jailed under highly irregular circumstances, which have been denounced by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, and The International Human Rights Federation, as well as several national human rights groups. Human Rights Watch is currently investigating the numerous human rights violations surrounding the Javier Ramirez case.  Javier was released after being sentenced in February of 2015 but only after serving 10 months in jail. His brother Victor Hugo remains in hiding accused of sabotage, the same criminal offense as his brother, for putting up resistance to the presence of Enami employees in their territory.

  1. 90% of NGO’s in Cotacachi County and Intag oppose the project. In late 2012, the most important civil society organizations in Intag wrote a letter to Chile’s president to make sure he understood that the organizations would again rise to defend the area if Codelco or anyone went ahead and tried to revive the project.  .


Exaggerated Copper Claims

15. In 2007, Micon International, the entity contracted by Ascendant Copper to evaluate the Junin copper deposit, said that it could not confirm their earlier estimates due to degradation of samples. Copper Mesa had been saying all along that the Junin copper deposit had four times more copper than what the Japanese inferred after years of exploration.   In all, 2.26 million tons were inferred by the Japanese, which is a little less than 1/10thof what the world consumes annually (and it would take decades to mine it all out).


Further environmental challenges

16. The area receives between 3000 and 4000 millimeters of annual rainfall. Heavy rainfall, abundant underground   aquifers, and heavy metals in the ore make for a deadly mix.  Not only that, but they raise the price of mining         considerably, while greatly increasing the risks of man-made disasters, such as landslides.  For an idea of what a   landslide can do in an open pit mine, gohere:


  1. The ore contains toxic heavy metals and sulfur (which will cause Acid Mine Drainage).


  1. There is a superabundance of underground water (according to Japanese EIA). This is bad news for mining companies and even worse news for the environment.


  1. The area where they found the copper is exceptionally steep and mountainous, making mining much more difficult and expensive than most mines.


  1. There are clear indications that Junín’s copper is very deep, making mining much more environmentally destructive and economically risky.  Emphasis on Economically risky.


  1. The Toisan Range has many geological faults, posing significant earthquake risks.


There are, in fact, more than 21 reasons for Codelco to stay out of Intag. But these should suffice for any company that considers itself responsible and to realize that Intag’s forests and inhabitants should be a no-go zone.


For more information contact Carlos Zorrilla at Decoin (


Further Reading

There are innumerable articles on this struggle, but a good place to begin is:


BnAmericas article here


Current information can be found at DECOIN’s Facebook page, but also in these sites:


Terrorismo en Intag?

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By , July 16, 2014

Mina de cobre Peru Cerro Verde crp

Mina de Cobre Cerro Verde, Perú


(Terrorismo en Intag)

Crónicas del extractivismo neocolonial contemporáneo

Horacio Machado Aráoz


1.- Luego de varios viajes al Ecuador, es la primera vez que estoy personalmente en la zona de Intag. Sus montañas, de una belleza conmovedora y generosidad exuberante, vienen dando que hablar bastante en las últimas décadas. Yo escuché de ellas allá por 2005, cuando empezaba las investigaciones para mi tesis doctoral. Me enteré por entonces de uno de los primeros y más fuertes conflictos provocados por la nueva ola de fiebre mineral que se desató desde la última década del siglo pasado en América Latina. La lucha de las comunidades campesinas de Intag contra la Bishi Metals (empresa minera japonesa ligada al holding de Mitsubishi Corporation) en 1997 y más tarde contra la Ascendant Copper Co. (canadiense) en 2002, sería no sólo una de las pioneras, sino también emblemáticas en la defensa de los sistemas de vida locales, amenazados por las crecientes pretensiones extractivistas. Muchas otras resistencias contra mega-proyectos mineros en la región, se inspirarían más tarde en la valentía de esas comunidades al enfrentar y finalmente expulsar a esas grandes corporaciones, que ya en aquellos años supieron desplegar todo el arsenal de violencia diversificada que les es característico: donaciones y persecuciones, sobornos a líderes locales y dirigentes políticos, agresivas campañas mediáticas prometiendo el “desarrollo” y “nuevos empleos”, y hasta el amedrentamiento y las balas de fuerzas parapoliciales… Nada de eso pudo quebrantar entonces la férrea convicción de esas comunidades; para ellas era claro que ninguna promesa de “desarrollo” y de “oportunidades de enriquecimiento” era siquiera comparable a las riquezas, bellezas y bienestar que ellos ya disfrutaban y cultivaban con sus sistemas de vida. Antes que se transformara en un potente concepto político extendido a lo largo y a lo ancho de Nuestra América, antes de que la cartografía de los imaginarios políticos se viera sacudida por la emergencia de un nuevo horizonte emancipatorio condensado en la voz quecha de Sumaj Kawsay, esas comunidades de Intag ya sabían de qué se trataba el BUEN VIVIR… Ellos viven, practican, cultivan y disfrutan del Buen Vivir. Ya desde entonces, ellos saben que ese Buen Vivir nace y depende de sus montañas; han aprendido, por tanto, muy bien que el “desarrollo” es la principal amenaza, el arma más poderosa que apunta, hoy por hoy, contra el Buen Vivir…
2.- Estoy por primera vez en esa políticamente densa zona de Nuestra América que es Intag. Me encuentro en medio de una reunión de vecina/os de distintas localidades y pueblitos que se llegaron –no fácilmente- a la sede de la cooperativa de tamberos de Chalguayacu Alto. Más que los obstáculos del relieve, debieron esforzarse para pasar los “filtros” que los cuerpos de la policía nacional han instalado en los caminos para controlar e impedir, según los casos, el tránsito de la/os vecina/os por sus propios caminos… Veo rostros de aflicción; las voces suenan trémulas; como apagadas; unas como ahogadas en el dolor y la desesperanza; otras intentando contener tanta rabia y tanta indignación… Un vecino cuenta el estado de desesperación de la esposa de Javier Ramirez Piedra, presidente electo de la comunidad de Junín, detenido en condiciones irregulares (por decir lo menos) desde el 10 de abril de 2014 bajo los cargos de “rebelión, sabotaje y terrorismo”; es que lo que se creía una medida intimidatoria extrema pero de corta duración, ya va para largo: más de tres meses de detención, sumando arbitrariedades judiciales, unas tras otras… Otra vecina comparte el estado de angustia de su hija adolescente: “Nidia”, de trece años, tiene desde hace unas semanas trastornos de sueño y digestivos; padece de insomnio, y de noche, despierta sollozando; de día, le acompaña un estado de náuseas y vómitos… No quiere ir a la escuela; siente temor de tener que atravesar las propias calles del pueblo donde nació, ahora surcadas y ocupadas por numerosos policías, uniformados, de civil, y hasta con el torso desnudo. Están ahí, exhibiendo la “presencia del Estado”, haciendo saber que están ahora controlados y vigilados; lo escuchan y lo ven todo; que ellos son la fuerza, la razón y la ley. Están, unos acampando en las escuelas y otros, “alquilando” camas a vecinos a razón de 10 dólares la noche, a modo de “adelanto” de la prosperidad que traerá la minería… Ya las primeras voladuras han sido detonadas; no todavía en los cerros, sino en el tejido social de la comunidad. El dinero ofrecido es más ácido que el drenaje de mina: dinamita los vínculos y las relaciones; produce fracturas prácticamente irreversibles. Por qué aceptar la limosna estatal; por qué oponerse a lo que parece “inevitable”; dejarse vencer y traicionar a la comunidad; darse cuenta a tiempo y “aprovechar lo que sea posible”: las acusaciones cruzadas surcan los territorios de solidaridades históricas… Y con esas primeras grietas se “cuela” el poder de fuego de la voracidad extractivista en ciernes…

3.- Quién hubiera pensado unos pocos años atrás que el gobierno nacido y construido bajo el espíritu revolucionario del proceso constituyente que legara no sólo al Ecuador, ni sólo a Nuestra America, sino a la humanidad toda, la Constitución de Montecristi (2008), quien hubiera imaginado que ese gobierno terminara luego persiguiendo, judicializando, criminalizando y reprimiendo a los defensores de los Derechos de la Naturaleza. Más todavía, un gobierno que ejerce el poder en nombre de una supuesta “revolución ciudadana” acusando de terroristas a “simples” campesina/os, cafetalera/os, agricultora/es, criadores de vacas, de frutas, de ríos y de bosques, simplemente porque quieren seguir manteniendo y cuidando sus sistemas de vida, la salud y vitalidad de sus territorios; simplemente porque no quieren saber nada con una minería que no tiene nada que ver con ellos, con sus modos de producir y habitar sus montañas: porque la tecnología es extraña, como extraños son los motivos y los fines de la explotación; porque el cobre es deseado por otros y para otros; porque los caminos y la infraestructura, serán para usufructo de la “empresa”… Porque nada de lo que ofrecen compensará las pérdidas… Y hacer la voluntad de lo extraño en el propio territorio, produce extrañamiento, alienación ecobiopolítica.

Las comunidades de Intag lo saben y por eso se oponen. Esa oposición los ha convertido en enemigos declarados de la “causa nacional”, la nueva ola desarrollista que sopla ahora bajo los discursos grandilocuentes de la “revolución ciudadana”. Extraña revolución, que se parece tanto a las formas y los modos de una dictadura; extraña apelación a la “ciudadanía”, cuando los que salen a las calles a expresar su voluntad son perseguidos y judicializados; cuando las propias autoridades electas son acusadas de “terrorismo” por intentar cumplir el contrato político con sus electores…. Javier Ramirez Piedra es, como me lo describen sus vecinos, “un campesino honrado, pacífico y solidario”, comprometido desde siempre con la defensa de esa parte de la Cordillera de Toisán que es hoy su hogar. En reconocimiento precisamente a su honestidad y compromiso, ha sido electo presidente de la comunidad de Junín. En


cumplimiento de su “mandato electoral” ha participado y apoyado las manifestaciones populares contra el ingreso de la ENAMI (Empresa Nacional de Minería) a la zona. Esta empresa, creada por Rafael Correa, para arremeter en la zona con el proyecto Llurimagua, de explotación de cobre en casi 5000 hectáreas, en alianza con la transnacional chilena, oneroso legado de la dictadura de Pinochet, la CODELCO, procura ahora “revestir” de presuntamente “nacional” una explotación que por sus características, condiciones, modalidades y objetivos, es, más que transnacional, de carácter insoslayablemente (neo)colonial.

Javier Ramirez ha sido acusado de “rebelión, sabotaje y terrorismo” presuntamente por participar en una manifestación de vecinos que intentaron impedir el paso de agentes de la ENAMI a iniciar una nueva exploración de la zona. Desde el 10 de abril hasta la fecha permanece detenido. El 8 de mayo de este año, empleados de la ENAMI ingresaron a la fuerza, a la zona de Intag, escoltados por un cuerpo de 250 policías y fuerzas especiales anti-motines, en más de 30 vehículos policiales y acompañados por el gobernador de Imbabura. En su cuenta de Twitter, la ENAMI publicó la “noticia” con un lacónico y cínico comentario: “Una entrada pacífica y con apoyo de la comunidad a la zona de Llurimagua. Mineria Responsable”… Para más, esos policías ingresaron para no salir: han hecho de Junín y sus alrededores un territorio literalmente ocupado. Controlan y administran a su propio antojo y arbitrio no sólo el ingreso de “externos y foráneos” a la región, sino incluso, el propio tránsito de los mismos vecinos entre pueblo y pueblo. El 14 de junio pasado, el día antes de mi llegada a la zona, las comunidades de la región decidieron reunirse en Cotacachi y emprender una caravana en solidaridad con Junín y con su presidente detenido y en defensa de Intag. Se congregaron más de 400 personas en la plaza. El alcalde de Cotacachi, los concejales y funcionarios municipales, vecinos de localidades vecinas, vieron sin embargo, frustradas sus intenciones: la Policía Nacional les negó el paso en nombre de las medidas de seguridad tomada por el “Operativo Nacional Intag”, bajo órdenes directas del Ministerio del Interior, según respondieron… Ese sábado 14 de junio, la prepotencia estatal ejercida bajo el discurso legitimador de “revolución ciudadana” aplastó toda pretensión de mínima de ciudadanía; cobró las formas y los gestos de la más tosca dictadura. Ese día quedó claro que desde abril por lo menos a esta parte, Intag pasó a estar bajo un régimen de estado de sitio de facto.

4.- Yo llegué a Intag al otro día, de ese soberano atropello a la voluntad popular. El domingo 15 de junio era un día especial para todo Ecuador: ese día no sólo se festejaba el día del padre, sino que además debutaba la selección en el mundial de fútbol contra Suiza. Mientras en todo el país se vivía un clima de fiesta, en la zona de Intag predominaba un ambiente de terror. El terror alude no sólo a un estado fisiológico que se apodera de los cuerpos, sino también a un estado social donde las prácticas y las relaciones se hallan bajo el dominio del miedo y la angustia. Eso era lo que veía y percibía en cada rostro y en cada palabra que intercambiaba con la/os pobladores de la zona. La empresa minera, la ENAMI, como es del protocolo de sus políticas de fabricación de “consenso”, organizó un festejo para los padres, pero fueron muy pocos. Las calles estaban habitadas por el silencio y la mirada vigilante de patrulleros y policías de a pie. La gente, en la reunión convocada para hablar de la marcha frustrada del día anterior, hablaba bajito y mirando para el suelo… El miedo se percibía en el silencio y en los gestos. El proceso de “socialización” minera ya ha empezado; el clima de angustia y de terror es uno de sus primeros efectos/resultados. Pareciera ser que lo que no lograron años atrás grandes empresas extranjeras, ahora sería factible bajo la fachada de una “empresa nacional” que, encima, actúa con todo el poder de un gobierno que dice haber dejado atrás la larga noche neoliberal y gobernar ahora en nombre del “socialismo del siglo XXI” y la “revolución ciudadana”… Extraña situación en la que los nuevas administraciones progresistas y o de izquierda vienen ahora a continuar la agenda y los planes de gobierno que no pudieron ejecutar y completar los “neoliberales”… Extraña situación en la que las poblaciones que actúan en defensa de los principios de la Constitución de Montecristi, los defensores de los Derechos de la Madre Tierra, son ahora perseguidas y acusadas bajo el cargo de “terrorismo”; donde los “terroristas” viven literalmente aterrorizados por los atropellos del Estado… Es que así es la ecuación de la gobernanza neocolonial del extractivismo: el “desarrollo” minero, desde sus primeros pasos, desde la etapa de la “exploración”, no puede avanzar sino por medio de la fabricación e implantación de un estado social y corporal de terror… Bajo ese régimen está hoy Intag. El terrorismo extractivista –que pareciera más peligroso aún bajo los ropajes del “progresismo desarrollista”- está asfixiando las esperanzas y semillas del Buen Vivir que hay ahí guardadas en la cordillera de Toisán. Esa zona que fue pionera y emblema en la lucha por el Buen Vivir, pionera en la defensa de los Derechos de la Madre Tierra, y madre de tantas otras luchas semejantes en Nuestra América, está hoy bajo amenaza; literalmente sitiada; bajo estado de excepción… Precisa, hoy, de nuestras miradas y de nuestro corazón, de nuestra comprometida atención y apoyo… Allí en Intag se está librando una batalla clave por la revolución civilizatoria del Buen Vivir.

Horacio Machado Aráoz. Investigador del Conicet, Argentina

Rebelión ha publicado este artículo con el permiso del autor mediante una licencia de Creative Commons, respetando su libertad para publicarlo en otras fuentes.

Intag bajo Estado de Terror. Crónicas del extractivismo neocolonial en Ecuador



Intag Activists to Sue Canadian Stock Exchange and Canadian company

By , February 21, 2009

News from Intag 21 Februrary

99 days since Copper Mesa lost their concessions in Intag, AND,—-

Community Leaders in Canada to Sue the Toronto Stock Exchange and a Canadian Mining Company

Marcia Ramirez and Carlos Zorrilla, community activists from the Intag area of Ecuador, will be visiting Canada from the 25th of February until the 7th of March as part of a tour to announce lawsuits against a Canadian mining company and the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Continue reading 'Intag Activists to Sue Canadian Stock Exchange and Canadian company'»


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