MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Evidence of Land Trafficking in Intag

Published by MAC on 2007-07-25

Evidence of Land Trafficking in Intag

La Hora, Cotacachi, La Hora

25th July 2007

http://www.lahora.com.ec

The Commission for Civil-Society Control over Corruption (CCCC) has determined that, since 2005, a Canadian mining company, Ascendant Copper, had purchased 56 properties located around its mining concessions in an unclear manner, and that officials of the National Agrarian Development Institute (INDA) at the national level seem to be involved.

However, representatives of the mining company have assured that the purchases were legal and will request the Commission to explain its decision. Meanwhile, the Provincial Director of INDA in Imbabura, Diego Salgado, assured that, in the area under his jurisdiction, he knows nothing about the issue but that he is aware of two deeds, for 300 and 289 hectares, respectively, that were forged.

The CCCC report establishes that 18 properties that now belong to the Canadian company were awarded by INDA to different persons, who applied for legal ownership and then, after one or two months, sold the land to the mining company, at a price of 40 to 50 times more than they had paid the State agency. According to the Commission to Fight Corruption, this would be a strategy by the mining company to expand their properties.

The report by that Commission detected unusual speed in processing the land grant applications, and that seven applicants had an advantage because they processed their dossiers in the Central District in Quito rather than in the regional office in Imbabura, which had jurisdiction. This issue involves Carlos Rolando Aguirre, Executive Director of INDA, and officials who handle land award applications. The mining company's Francisco Veintimilla, General Manager of Ascendant Copper in Ecuador, far from denying the accusations of purchasing land in the zone, stated that his company's land purchases have been made with an eye to having a conservation area.

The manager explained that, if the commitment to purchase the properties was made one or two months after INDA had made the land awards, this was because they could not purchase land that was not duly legalized. On another topic, the mining company representative reported that they have taken action to open the mining company's offices in the town of Ibarra.

Immediate actions

The CCCC report will be sent to the Public Ministry, in order to begin the respective preliminary investigation against the parties involved. The CCCC will request Carlos Vallejo, Minister of Agriculture and Chairman of the INDA Governing Council, to endorse the procedure for reversion to the Government of the land involved in these dealings with Ascendant.

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