MAC: Mines and Communities

Ecuador: Community Assemly rejects BHP mine plan

Published by MAC on 2019-11-26

Community Assembly in Ecuador, Threatened by BHP, Votes to Reject Mining

Rainforest Action Group Media Release

26 November 2019

A community assembly in Intag on the 23rd November – an area BHP touts
as being its Ecuador stronghold – ended with the almost unanimous
rejection of mining in the area. The meeting was held only the day
before rumours surfaced that BHP would be increasing their stake in SolGold.

The assembly held in the Parish of Apuela, Intag, was attended by nearly
all the communities in the Parish, with local leaders begging the Parish
Government to help them prevent mining companies from entering their
communities. Despite being formally invited, BHP representatives did not
attend the meeting.

‘At the assembly several community presidents denounced BHP’s entry
into their respective communities, and called for measures to be taken
at a higher level to impede future entry. The absence of representatives
from BHP seems at odds with their socialisation attempts, and was not
viewed favourably by locals who wanted to know the company’s plans for
the region,” says Liz Downes, a member of the Rainforest Action Group.

“No representatives of the Cerro Quebrado-BHP company went to the
Assembly to appear before the communities, and to share information
about their plans and projects for mineral exploration within the Santa
Teresa and Santa Teresa mining concessions 2, which affect not only
Apuela, but also two neighboring parishes (Plaza Gutierrez and
Cuellaje),”[1] says Mr Carlos Zorilla, environmentalist and co-founder
of local environmental group DECOIN.

Representatives from the Ministries of Environment, the Ministry of
Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources, the Mining Regulation and
Control Agency, the Secretariat of Water, and Ecuadorian state mining
company Enami also failed to appear.

The assembly was addressed by the Ombudsman of Imbabura, Doctor
Katherine Andrade, a representative of the Provincial Government of
Imbabura, and expert geologist Pablo Duque, retired dean professor of
the National Polytechnic School. Pablo Duque informed the community as
to the risks of mining in the region, and explained why large-scale
mining could not happen in this area without irreversible environmental
damage.

Apuela sits in the middle of the Santa Teresa 2 mining concession, which
belongs to BHP’s South American subsidiary Cerro Quebrado. Residents of
Intag, a farming region with a history of strong resistance against
large-scale mining due to widespread concerns about social and
environmental impacts, have expressed concerns over what they consider
to be a lack of community consultation and transparency by Cerro
Quebrado during the process of gaining permits.

“The Intag region experiences high rainfall and earthquake risk, making
mining infrastructure and tailings dams inordinately risky. It also
contains the last remnants of mega-biodiverse cloud forests within the
Chocó Andes belt, which are habitats for critically endangered species
such as the Andean Spectacled Bear. Any disturbance or contamination of
rivers would gravely affect the environment as well as the lives of
people and endangered species in the region,” Ms Downes said.

According to Mr Carlos Zorrilla, a formal resolution and list of demands
are expected to be officially announced by the Assembly this week. These
will include a demand for the revocation of the mining concessions in
the Parish over the lack of environmental consultation; a barring of
mining companies from entering the communities; and a request for a full
consultation over the entire Intag area.

“There has been persistent and ongoing resistance from locals to mining
companies exploring on their lands. To access the Santa Teresa 1 and 2
concessions for exploration activities, BHP employees must use a private
road, which the owners have now vowed to bar them from using,” says Liz
Downes.

BHP’s announcement regarding SolGold comes only six weeks after Ecuador
erupted in widespread protests over IMF austerities, which caused the
IMF to classify the country as a high risk for foreign investment,
particularly in extractive industries.

It also comes amid ongoing concerns over serious security issues at the
Cascabel project site, where explorations are underway. Cascabel came
under fire earlier this year in an intensive investigation by the
National Ombudsman, who stated in his report that environmental and
other risk assessments done by the company in order to obtain
exploration licenses were inadequate.

“BHP regards Ecuador as being a promising investment due to its
potentially large reserves of high-grade copper deposits, which the
company considers essential to its plans to supply the global renewable
energy sector. We are gravely concerned about rumours concerning BHP
increasing their shares in Solgold, despite our warnings to the company
at the AGM about the security concerns of Cascabel and other concessions
in Ecuador. It is a bitter irony that renewables risk gravely impacting
the environment and water supply of such biodiverse forested areas,”
says Liz Downes.

[1] Quote from email. Full email can be forwarded on request.

Contact:

Rebekah Hayden 0406 869 826

 

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