MAC: Mines and Communities

Ecuadorian women lead protests against Chinese-financed Canadian project

Published by MAC on 2012-03-14
Source: Channel News Asia, Upside Down World, Dow Jones (2012-03-08)

Ecuadorian women have led protests against the Chinese-financed Canadian copper mining Mirador project which, they say, will damage Amazonia's fragile ecosystem.

Yvonne Yanez, leader of Acción Ecológica, claims the proposed mine "will affect for all time the territory of indigenous people and nature".

Menwhile, a Plurinational March for Water, Life, and Dignity of the People is advancing towards Quito from diverse points around the country. The march started in El Pangui, Zamora Chinchipe, on March 8.

The Mirador copper project is located near El Pangui.

English coverage of the march can be followed here: http://marchaporlavida.net/english-2/ 

ESPAÑOL

Ecuadorans protest China mine project

Channel News Asia

6 March 2012

QUITO: Ecuador has signed an agreement with a Chinese firm to begin exploiting a massive copper mine in the Amazon, prompting protests by environmental activists.

Protest outside the Chinese embassy in Quito
Protest outside the Chinese embassy in Quito. Source:AFP

"We cannot be beggars sitting on a sack of gold," President Rafael Correa said at a signing ceremony Monday, adding that the deal would launch a "new era" of industrial mining in the small Andean country.

Police had earlier evicted a dozen female environmental activists who had occupied China's embassy to reject the pact with Chinese-financed mining firm EcuaCorriente (ECSA), saying it would damage the Amazon's fragile ecosystem.

The officers loaded the protesters onto a police bus surrounded by soldiers.

Yvonne Yanez, leader of the group Ecologist Action, said the activists entered the embassy without incident, and that the women had been waiting inside to deliver a letter to the ambassador, who never received them.

About 50 other activists were outside the diplomatic mission.

The mining "will affect for all time the territory of indigenous people and nature," the letter said.

"We reject the signing of the contract... without approval of an environmental impact study and without the knowledge of indigenous communities."

The agreement, which falls under a law passed three years ago, comes just before the main aboriginal group CONAIE planned to initiate a two-week march to Quito on Thursday to protest the mining and other Correa policies.

"We will not accept large-scale mining in our territory because it will destroy nature, pollute rivers and displace people in areas with significant agricultural potential, farming and tourism," CONAIE president Humberto Cholango told AFP.

ECSA plans to invest US$1.4 billion during the first five years of the 25-year contract for the Mirador mine in the Condor range in southeastern Ecuador, in an area that the protesters say is one of the country's most biodiverse.

The mine has an estimated reserves of 2.1 million tons of copper.

Ecuador stands to receive US$4.5 billion over the term of the agreement, while the company, which will begin production in late 2014, will invest US$100 million from royalties to help develop neighbouring communities.

The state's share of mining income is 52 percent, higher than in countries like Chile (36 percent), Peru (32.9 percent) and Mexico (30 percent), but less than the 85 percent that applies to oil production.

"The state owns the resources and the company invests at a cost to get the resources. The highest percentage of profit will always go to the state," Vice Minister of Mines Federico Auquilla told El Comercio newspaper.

He said Ecuador has a dozen projects in advanced stages of exploration -- prior to signing an exploitation contract -- for copper, gold and silver.

But most of the projects are located in regions of the Amazon home to indigenous communities staunchly opposed to large-scale mining.


Indigenous Ecuadorians March Against Canadian Copper Mine

Environmental News Service (ENS)

8 March 2012

QUITO, Ecuador - Several hundred members of the largest Ecuadorian indigenous organization today began marching to the capital, Quito, to protest new mining in their territory. They expect to arrive in Quito on March 22.

The indigenous march started from Yantzaza in Zamora Chinchipe province southern Ecuador, where a Canadian company has been authorized to develop a large open-pit copper mine - the first large-scale mine under a new government mining policy.

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, CONAIE, says that at the heart of the current discontent is not only this particular mine but also President Rafael Correa's plans to allow international companies to carry out large-scale mining projects.

They are demanding that the government pass legislation to regulate water management and land redistribution.

On March 5, the Correa government signed an agreement with Ecuacorriente, the local unit of British Columbia-based Corriente Resources Inc., that allows the company to mine the Mirador copper project, according to Wilson Pastor, minister of nonrenewable natural resources.

Pastor said the company intends to invest about $1.4 billion over the next five years in the Mirador project. Ecuacorriente will pay $100 million in advance royalties to fund social projects in areas around the mine.

But as people gathered today in Zamora Chinchipe to start the march, provincial prefect and indigenous leader Salvador Quishpe reiterated their concerns for aboriginal communities where mining pollutes formerly pristine lands and rivers.

In response, the Ecuadorian government mounted a march of its own in Quito, which went to the Palace of Government and was headed by ministers of state. On the occasion of International Women's Day, the government march highlighted its actions to improve the living conditions of women in Ecuador.

President Rafael Correa has said that the indigenous mobilization seeks to destabilize his government, and has harangued his supporters to "continue mobilized until 22 March" at Independence Square opposite the government palace in Quito.

"Resist peacefully, on March 8 we will gather in Independence Square and say, 'Here we are and this revolution does not stop anything or anyone!'" The President said last week.

CONAIE President Humberto Cholango insists that the indigenous mobilization is peaceful and is not intended to destabilize the Correa government and asked his supporters not to fall for the "provocation."

In their protest, the Indians have the support of faculty and student organizations and opposition political parties. Today, these groups carried out several actions to reject government policies in Quito and in several Ecuadorian provinces.

The aboriginal leaders say their groups played an important role in the fall of the leaders Bucaram (1997) and Jamil Mahuad (2000).

CONAIE says its members supported the Correa government in its infancy, but a distance developed that remains until now.

The president of CONAIE, Humberto Cholango, told reporters that the Indians want the government, as indicated by the Ecuadorian Constitution, to consult on mining projects with communities located in areas where mines are planned.

Minister Pastor indicated that the government has conducted dialogues with the indigenous communities but noted that such consultations are not binding under Ecuadorian law.

The Indians maintain that the government must go beyond just reporting on their mining plans. Government officials must discuss existing differences and reach agreements with indigenous communities.

Corriente controls a 100 percent interest in 62,000 hectares located within the Corriente Copper Belt, which extends over a 20 x 80 kilometer area in southeast Ecuador. Corriente calls this area one of the only undeveloped copper districts available in the world today and says the company will create South America's next major producing copper district. Gold deposits have been found just to the north which the company intends to develop.

The Ecuadorian Ministry of Mines and Petroleum has approved the company's initial Mirador Environmental Impact Assessment but in September 2006, the company filed an amendment to the EIA to allow for mill, tailings and dump location changes to the original mine plan.

In May 2007, the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum advised the company that the amended EIA will require further study. It is currently being revised for re-submittal and during this ongoing review process, the company says it continues to operate under the terms of the original Environmental Impact Assessment.


Mining, Minerals and Repression

DECOIN

5 March 2012

As Canada's famous Prospectors, Developers Association of Canada's convention got underway today in Toronto, a different kind of mining event was unfolding in Ecuador's capital.

Eight anti-mining women activists were violently arrested when they tried to deliver a letter to the Chinese Ambassador in Ecuador in which they expressed their rejection of the signing of the contract between Ecuador and the Chinese-owned Ecuacorriente mining company, which will give the go-ahead for the open-pit copper Mirador Project.

The contract was signed today and, in theory, should pave the way for the first open-pit metal mining project in Ecuador, and large-scale mining in general. To date, Ecuador is the only Andean nation free of large-scale metal mines.

The mining site is situated in the Amazon's biodiverse Cordillera del Condor, southeast of the country, and would impact the Shuar people, pristine rivers and streams, as well as primary cloud forests. The women, belonging to Acción Ecológica, were violently removed from the Chinese premises, even though the Chinese Embassy did not ask for the police action, according to reports. There was more violence outside the building when police confronted supporters of the protesters.

Violence and mining; and not an ounce of copper has been mined yet by the transnationals. Canada's Kinross's gold mine is next in line for the exploitation contract, if they can navigate through all the hurdles facing the mining companies in Ecuador. The navigation includes sharing 51% of the post-tax profits, and handing over tens of millions in anticipated royalties so the government can invest in neutralizing the opposition by building roads, and "eradicating poverty". Emphasis on the quotation marks.

The AFP article below reporting on the violent removal of the activists mentions a national march that is to from all corners of the country starting on the 8th of March. Rejection of large-scale mining is a central galvanizer of the marchers. On the 22nd, the different protesters will meet in Quito for the International Water Day, where they will be joined by their urban counterparts.


CONAIE and Social Movements Mobilize in Ecuador

APC Suramerica - Upside Down World

APC Editors, Translation by Jim Rudolf

5 March 2012

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) officially announced a march that will begin during the celebration of International Women's Day on March 8, in the province of Zamora in the canton of Pangui, and will advance towards the city of Quito, arriving on March 22, World Water Day. The march is designated "National March for the Life and Dignity of the People."

A press conference of the indigenous and social movements was held on Thursday, February 23, in the offices of CONAIE. It was organized to officially announce a march that will begin during the celebration of International Women's Day on March 8, in the province of Zamora in the canton of Pangui, and will advance towards the city of Quito, arriving on March 22, World Water Day.

As well as the uprising, the issues addressed at the press conference were the rejection of the current regime of President Rafael Correa, and the announcement for all Ecuadorians to unite in the mobilization entitled "National March for the Life and Dignity of the People."

"We call on all social and political sectors of the country to mobilize on March 8, which will be only the beginning, but we call on all Ecuadorians for the day of March 22, we will march from all over the country to the city of Quito," said Humberto Cholango, president of CONAIE.

The Grand National March, organized by CONAIE and social sectors in the country, among others, is to defend the Constitution of Montecristi against the neoliberal policies of the central government, for the approval of the Water Law, the Agrarian Revolution Law, and against abuse and arrogant attitudes, offenses against women and in particular against the indigenous movement, that are being criminalized and persecuted by the current government for thinking differently than the regime.

The president of CONAIE explained that the mobilization has no political aims, nor is it sponsored by any sector of the right. "We wish to say to the President of the Republic that our struggles are genuine and revolutionary struggles of the people, and the are absolutely not financed by any fascist nor any company, since we will never join with the sectors of the right in Ecuador."

Finally he said, "That is why we are calling on all Ecuadorians to take to the streets on these days (March 8 and 22) and to say that we stand here to protect the changes that we have always dreamed of for our children."

Meanwhile, Delfín Tenesaca, president of ECUARUNARI, announced that there is evidence of extreme poverty among the indigenous, those of African descent, and coastal campesinos, and "we will mobilize the indigenous movement against the high cost of living, for a true education for the indigenous sector, the right to health, the protection of Pachamama. We don't want any more mining or oil exploration in our indigenous territories, we reject the excessive taxes on the indigenous and campesinos, the taxes on us, the poor, the campesinos, the farmers who support the cities. It is serious, it is a violation of our rights."

He also refuted the accusations of President Correa of an intent to destabilize the state by the indigenous movement: "I regret that he continues to say that we, the indigenous, the campesinos, the dispossessed in the country, that we are trying to destabilize this government; it is very clear that the destabilization has been done to the indigenous movement (by the government), to the organized movement, to historic organizations, but not by us (to the government)."

Delfín added: "We do not want an uninhabited country. As we say, we do not want food today and hunger tomorrow, we do not want to destroy our plateaus, our forests, our coexistence with Mother Nature, with the Earth and human beings."

Concluding with the decision to mobilize, he said, "As the indigenous movement in the country we announce this mobilization. ECUARUNARI with its decisions has said, let us protect Mother Nature, let us protect the dignity of the organizations of the people, of the nationalities, let us support all the social movements and let us call on all social sectors to protect life."

Among the panelists who participated, in addition to those mentioned, were: Paul Velasco, president of the Popular Front; Mariana Pallasco, president of the UNE; Clara Medina, representative of the Organization of Women; Natasha Rojas, president of the Barrios of Quito; Lady Morales, representative of FESE; and others who indicated their support and confirmed their participation in the national march.


Chinese to invest US$1.4 billion in large copper mine in Ecuador

Dow Jones Newswires

1 March 2012

QUITO - Ecuador has reached an agreement with Ecuacorriente, the local unit of Canada's Corriente Resources Inc., that allows the company to mine the Mirador copper project, Wilson Pastor, minister of nonrenewable natural resources, said Thursday.

At a press conference, Pastor said the contract between the Ecuadorean government and Ecuacorriente will be signed Monday at the presidential palace.

The agreement includes royalties of between 6% to 8%, depending on the price of copper.

Pastor said the company plans to invest about $1.4 billion over the  next five years in the Mirador project, located in Zamora Chinchipe province in southern Ecuador.

Ecuacorriente will pay Ecuador's government $100 million in advance royalties to fund social projects in areas around the mine.

Ecuador expects the company begin production late in 2013.

Pastor said the negotiating process with Ecuacorriente has been very difficult, but the agreement "opens large-scale foreign mining investment in the country."

According to Pastor, the agreement allows the government's share of the project's economic benefits at a minimum 52%, including royalties and several taxes.

"With this project Ecuador will be the world leader in terms of how much revenue it will be obtaining," the minister said.

Ecuador's mining output currently is minimal. President Rafael Correa's administration plans to sign exploitation and investment contracts with at least three foreign mining companies this year.

The Correa administration is also negotiating with Kinross Gold Corp. for its Fruta del Norte project and with the local unit of International Minerals Corp. for its Rio Blanco project.

Pastor has said that a final contract to allow Kinross to mine the Fruta del Norte deposit might not go through because the company wants  to renegotiate the terms of an agreement signed with the Andean country in December.

The main disagreements with Kinross are over base prices for the windfall profit tax that the company should pay, and related issues.

On Thursday Pastor said that talks between the administration and the company continue.

Pastor is scheduled to meet this month with Kinross Chief Executive Tye Burt.

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