MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Conflicts Over Canadian Mining Firm Ecuacorrientes In Zamora, Ecuador

Published by MAC on 2006-11-02
Source: Mines and Communities

Conflicts Over Canadian Mining Firm Ecuacorrientes in Zamora, Ecuador

2nd November 2006

By César Padilla {MAC's Chilean Editor}

This past October 20, in the gymnasium in the town of El Pangui, along the Ecuadorean jungle in the province of Zamora in Cordillera del Cóndor, near the city of Cuenca, some 500 persons of nearby communities, including indigenous group Shuar, met to oppose the mining project of Canadian firm Ecuacorrientes.

There were numerous presentations by local leaders, indigenous persons, authorities and invited speakers from Bolivia, Perú and Chile who spoke of the risks of mining from experiences in their countries. The area affected by the mining project of Ecuacorrientes is not traditionally a mining area, and the experiences and knowlege of the local population around the issue is not sufficient for them to envisage a mining operation in the jungle.

The numerous rivers which cross the jungle, the great variety of species and the economic potentials are all put at risk by the polymetal (copper and gold) mining project.

Although there is opposition to the mining project, which is said to be promoting the use of technology without chemicals and of high technical rigour (justifications thrown about with impunity thanks to the lack of technical knowlege of the local population) the firm has managed to break the will of some local leaders of indigenous communities under the discourse of "mutual benefits." Some of these have decided to support the company and its project. But this group of local leaders is small and is bitterly opposed, and denounced, by the rest of the population of the province, including leaders of the Shuar communities of the region.

During the anti-mining meeting, a Shuar leader called for indigenous leaders coopted by the mining firm to reflect, with the help of potions traditionally utilized by the indigenous people, so as to clear the mind and make good decisions. The dedication of the communities, in informing and preparing themselves to oppose the project is notable, owing to the difficulties of transport, the distances between the communiites and lack of means to make personal communication.

Another problem which affects the communities nearby is the construction of hydroelectric projects; these are also being opposed and boycotted by the local population. The communities are opposed to their construction as the energy generated is destined for use by the mine.

There are various mayors and religious leaders in the area opposed to the the mining project and they are undertaking efforts to halt its advance. As in the district of Cotacachi, where leader Carlos Zorrilla has been persecuted for his opposition to the mining project of the Ascendant company, there are threats and intimidation against the opponents of the Ecuacorrientes mine.

Taking advantage of attendance by mining and environmental experts and representatives of neighboring countries, two parallel meetings were carried out on the night of October 20 in the municipalities of Llansasa and Gualaquiza. In both locations, there were presentations about the risks of mining and its effects upon the environment, local economies, employment, social relations and the organizations of civil society.

In the meeting in Llansasa there was a large turnout of employees of the mining firm, which generated a heated discussion resolved by dividing the group and working in parallel workshops. In Gualaquiza, the participants pronounced themselves firmly against the mining project and emphasized alternative productive projects, the care of the water and environment for the necessities of current and future generations.

One particular exposition during the Gualaquiza meeting was carried out by the parish of Jumbitono spotlighting the resistance of the communities to expansion of the hydroelectric projects. Communities of Jumbitono have blockaded the roads and access points to the locations where the hydroelectric expansion is to be carried out.

Information recently provided by the various communities affected by the mining project speak of militarization by the company, using 200 police, after the indigenous leaders coopted by the mining firm spread the rumors that the communities had burned the installations of the company.

The Shuar communities have also decided to expel from their territories a small mining firm, in order to prevent the development of projects of larger scale in the future. As mining projects increase in Ecuador, the emerging conflicts also appear to be growing. In this way, the future of mining in this country appears to be more pessimistic than hopeful. Ecuador, traditionally not a mining country, is resisting the advance of the mining industry after having confronted, time and time again the terrible effects of the petroleum industry.

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