MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Injunction Filed Against the Junin Mining Concession, Ecuador

Published by MAC on 2003-05-23

Press Release: Injunction Filed Against the Junin Mining Concession, Ecuador

DECOIN (Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag)

23 May 2003

The Municipality of Cotacachi, Ecuador, represented by its indigenous mayor, Auki Tituaña, will officially present a constitutional injunction against the illegality of the Junin copper mining concession, on Thursday, 22 May 2003. This will mark the first time in Ecuador a municipal government will take this legal action to stop a mining project from taking place. The action is backed by the 6 township governments of the Intag area - site of the proposed copper mine - 24 non-governmental organizations, and dozens of communities.

The injunction sites violations of basic constitutional rights to the people living in and around the proposed mining area - including the right to be previously consulted about the project. It also cites illegalities committed by government officials during the auction of the Junin mining concession. At the auction, Mr. Roque Bustamante was the sole bidder for the 7,000 hectare concession (17,500 acres). Mr. Bustamante paid $18,005.00 for the concession, and is currently seeking 5 to 10 million dollars to supposedly complete the exploratory phase.

Most of the mining area is rich in primary forests belonging to one of the planet's 25 biological Hotspots - the Chocó-Western-Ecuadorian Hotspot. In addition, the forests protect the habitat of dozens of endangered mammals and birds - including Jaguars, Spectacled Bears, two species of monkeys, Mountain Toucans, in addition to protecting dozens of pristine watersheds used by several communities.

The Environmental Impact Study compiled by Japan's Metal Mining Agency also called for severe contamination of streams and rivers with lead, arsenic, chrome, cadmium, copper and nitrates, and the relocation of four communities in order to make room for the mine.

In 1997, seven communities around the mining area united to stop the mining project from completing the exploratory activities. A subsidiary of Mitsubishi, Bishimetals (now Mitsubishi Materials) was carrying out the exploration together with the government mining agency Codigem, when the communities decided to take matters into their hands. This was a direct result of government's and the company's lack of responsibility for their welfare. On May 15th, after carefully removing and inventorying all the equipment, over 200 communities members burned down the mining camp (the goods were eventually returned to the government).

The communities, much stronger in their opposition than s ixyears ago and aided by international, national, and local organizations like DECOIN (Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag), will resist any new efforts of mining companies to return to spoil their rivers, destroy their forests and livelihood, and divide their communities. Furthermore, since the passing of a new, and strict County Ecological Ordinance, mining companies will find it impossible to legally set up shop in Cotacachi County area.

This latest legal action by the Municipality of Cotacachi, sends a clear signal to mining companies all over the world, that the Intag area, and Cotacachi, are permanently OFF LIMITS to mining.

DECOIN (Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag)
PO Box 144
Tel: 593 6 648 593

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