MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Ecuador:- It´s all over for Copper Mesa Mining Corporation in Intag - Copper Mesa pierde concesión clave en Intag

Published by MAC on 2008-11-24

On November 12th 2008, Ecuador's Ministry of Mines and Petroleum officially cancelled Copper Mesa Corporation(formerly Ascendant Copper Corporation)'s Golden 1 mining concession in Intag province.

It is only a matter of time before the two other concessions making up the JUNIN project will be extinguished, since the company did not comply with the process of holding prior consultation with the communities and also failed to present a valid environmental impact assessment. The communities of Intag have been resisting mining development since the 1990's, when Mitsubishi subsidiary, Bishimetals, discovered copper and molybdenum in the Toisan Range's primary forests and along its pristine rivers and streams.

Meanwhile, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has presented a new mining bill, warning his allies in the legislature that he will veto major changes to the legislation, expected to pass in 2009. Correa has said he wants to "jump-start" mining of precious metals from large deposits, asking that people "mobilise in favour of responsible mining" as a response to mounting resistance to transnational mining companies operating in the country.


Ecuador says to present mining bill this week

Reuters

10th November 2008

QUITO - Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said he will propose this week a mining bill to overhaul the nascent sector, and warned his allies in the legislature not to make deep changes to the legislation. Correa, a leftist former economy minister, has said he wants to jump-start mining of precious metals from large deposits to diversify the oil-dependent economy and share its revenues with the poor majority.

"If there are deep changes to the law, I will veto it and put it up for a popular referendum," Correa said during his weekly media address on Saturday. "The government's political decision is to develop the mining sector."

Correa, who enjoys a majority in the legislature, has clashed with more radical factions inside his Alianza Pais party that say large-scale mining will hurt the country's pristine environment and indigenous communities in the jungle.

The legislature power-struggle over the bill will be key for foreign companies deciding whether to do business in Ecuador, which holds huge deposits of gold, copper and silver.

Mining development in Ecuador should raise revenue for the government at a time when its income from oil sales is likely to be lower than in previous years.

Deputy Mining Minister Jose Serrano told Reuters that under the draft law companies could opt to exploit minerals under a service contract with the government, although that would not be obligatory. Companies had lobbied for such flexibility.

Serrano also said the law would levy "at least" 5 percent royalty on sales but would allow companies to deduct some operational costs, such as refining and transport. At times during the drafting of the law, companies had feared a higher levy based on gross production.

The government could introduce the bill as soon as Monday and expected it to be approved by early 2009. Ecuador will also apply a windfall tax to what it considers extraordinary revenue due to high metal prices, he added. "The 'at least' 5 percent royalty and service contracts is a bit ambiguous and adds an element of uncertainty and risk," said Michael Gray, an analyst with Genuity Capital Markets in Vancouver. "This means that the biggest companies around the world will probably sit on the sidelines and wait for clarity in Ecuador before investing."

Some of world's top miners, such as Chile's Codelco and Xstrata, are eyeing massive copper projects in southern Ecuador. Other world-class gold and silver plays could lure large investors, analysts say. If approved, the law will lift a government ban on mining activity approved in April that hurt the operations of dozens of Canadian companies, such as Corriente Resources and Iamgold.

The widely popular Correa warned environmentalists and Indian groups who have threatened road blockades and massive protests to reject the new bill. "These groups can do whatever they want peacefully. But, if they block roads and act against private property, we will act firmly," Correa said. "It will be irresponsible to sit on these world-class gold, copper and silver reserves and leave it underground."

Influential Indian groups have threatened massive marches to reject the new law they say it benefits foreign companies to the detriment of the environment.

(Editing by Walter Bagley)


IT'S ALL OVER FOR COPPER MESA MINING CORPORATION IN INTAG
(formerly Ascendant Copper Corporation)

By Carlos Zorrilla

13th November 2008

On Wednesday, November 12th, Ecuador's Ministry of Mines and Petroleum officially extinguished Copper Mesa Corporation's Golden 1 mining concession in Intag, Ecuador. The Golden 1 concession formed a key part of the company's JUNIN mining project, and constituted the company's most valuable asset. The government action means that the concession will revert back to the government

It is only a matter of time when the other two concessions making up the JUNIN project will be extinguished, in light that they also did not comply with the process of previous consultation with the community and likewise lack a valid environmental impact assessment- which were the basis used by the government for the extinction. In fact, not a single of the company's project in the Intag region has complied with the process of community consultation, nor have a valid environmental impact assessment.

The decision was a direct result of the April 15th mining Mandate issued by the National Assembly, which extinguished most of the country's mining concessions. The Mandate excludes compensation of any kind for the mining companies.

According to government spokespersons over 4,000 mining concessions were affected by the Mandate. Projects in the exploitation phase were generally left alone, but nearly all of the ones in exploration phase were affected.

According to the new mining legislation being debated in the provisional National Assembly (the "mini-congress" as it is known here), no mining concessions can be awarded until the government determines the areas designated for mining activities in its National Development Plan, something that could last months or even years.

Copper Mesa and its predecessors (Ascendant Copper Corporation and Ascendant Exploration), have been in the Intag area since 2004, and have been accused of serious human rights abuses, including numerous and documented use of paramilitaries against the local population who are opposed to mining. Its unwelcome presence in the area provoked numerous violent confrontations, which led the government to issue several stop-work orders in late 2006 and early 2007.

The Second Transnational Mining Corporation Defeated in Intag

The communities of Intag, with the full support of all its local governments and organizations, have been resisting mining development since the 1990's, when the Mitsubishi subsidiary, Bishimetals, discovered copper and molybdenum amidst the Toisan Range's primary forests and pristine rivers and streams. In 1997 due to overwhelming local opposition, Bishimetals was forced to abandon the project.


Press Bulletin

Communities Opposed to Mining carry Out Sit-In in Canadian Embassy

10th November 2008

Quito - On the morning of November 10, representatives of campesino and indigenous communities of the north, central and south of Ecuador, accompanied by leaders of the CONAIE, assembled at the Canadian consulate in Quito, Ecuador. Their purpose was to deliver a letter, in a manner both peaceful and representative of this country, declaring their opposition to the Canadian mining interests carrying out large-scale projects in campesino and indigenous lands and territories in Ecuador.

Among other things, the letter expressed:

That Ecuador has already lived through the terrible oil experience, which after 35 years has only left large-scale environmental, social and economic devastation.

Their worry for the recklessness of the national government in attracting mining investments, which is shown by the unusual hurry to approve a new Mining Law, awarding mining companies the "right to contaminate" and violating principles and precepts of the new Constitution and international treaties.

Denunciation of the representative of the Canadian government for his inference towards public opinion in Canada, regarding the "violation of human rights of Canadian mining companies", such as Ascendant Copper (now known as "Mesa Copper Corporation") in Intag, of Corriente Resources (ECSA) in the Cóndor Range, and IAMGold in Azuay.

In the face of all this, they announced that the campesino and indigenous towns and communities located in the areas of mining concessions are mobilized and organizing in defense of their territories.

The demonstration was cheerful and festive in the face of the financial crisis confronting the mining industry. This will limit the financial resources available for investments, and demonstrates yet again that the extractive economic model is not sustainable, and is environmentally, socially and economically untenable.

CONAIE, Coordination Region of Intag, CONDECONO, FRESMIGE, Acción Ecológica, CECONDEM, Coordination of Jubones (Azuy), Water Board of Jerusalem (Bolivar), Front for the Defense of Life of Cañar


ASCENDANT (COPPER MESA MINING CORPORATION) PIERDE CONCESIÓN CLAVE EN INTAG

Por Carlos Zorrilla

13 de noviembre, Ecuador

El día miércoles 12 de noviembre, el Ministerio de Minas y Petróleo del Ecuador extinguió la concesión minera más importante de Copper Mesa Mining Corporation (Ascendant Copper) en la zona de Intag, Provincia de Imbabura, Ecuador.

La decisión revierte al estado la concesión Golden 1 la cual forma parte del proyecto JUNÍN, que constituía el proyecto minero más valioso de la empresa. El gobierno citó la falta de la realización de la consulta previa con las comunidades por parte de la empresa, al igual la falta de haber realizado un estudio de impacto ambiental válido para el proyecto minero. De lo que se conoce, ninguna de las otras concesiones de la empresa en Intag han cumplido con estos requisitos, por lo que probablemente muy pronto también serán extinguidas.

La decisión gubernamental fue resultado directo del Mandato Minero decretado el 15 de abril del 2008 por la Asamblea Nacional, con el cual se extinguió aproximadamente 80% de concesiones mineras en el país que no contaban con los respectivos estudios de impacto ambiental, por incumplimiento de pagos de patentes, afectaciones a micro cuencas, y otras causales.

El Mandato excluye la posibilidad de que las empresas reciban indemnizaciones.

Según pronunciamientos oficiales, más de 4.000 concesiones fueron afectadas por el Mandato. Los proyectos en fase de explotación en general no fueron afectados, pero casi todos los que se encontraban en fase de exploración,y en especial los que no contaban con sus respectivos estudios de impacto ambientales, entraron dentro de las concesiones a ser revertidas al estado. Hasta la fecha, aproximadamente 2,000 concesiones han sido revertidas por incumplir con las disposiciones del Mandato.

De acuerdo a la nueva legislación minera elaborada por el gobierno del Presidente Correa, no se podrá otorgar nuevas concesiones mineras hasta que el país elabore su Plan de Desarrollo Nacional, y designe las áreas aptas para actividades mineras- un proceso que podría durar meses, o incluso, años.

Ascendant Copper, la cual cambió su nombre a Copper Mesa Mining Corporation en Julio de este año, ha estado en la zona de Intag desde Mayo del 2004, y su presencia ha estado vinculada a graves violaciones de derechos humanos, enfrentamientos violentos entre comuneros, y la utilización de paramilitares contra campesinas y campesinos opositores a la minería. La violencia y la presencia de paramilitares en la zona provocó que el gobierno suspenda las actividades de la empresa transnacional a fines del 2006, y de nuevo en el 2007.

Puestos de trabajo

La empresa ha sido acusada de emplear a cientos de trabajadores agrícolas de Intag como estrategia de dividir a las comunidades, ya que la empresa nunca obtuvo la aprobación del estudio de impacto ambiental por parte del gobierno, lo cual es un requisito indispensable para iniciar labores mineras.

Las comunidades de Intag han librado una resistencia pacífica contra la minería desde mediados de los 90 cuando Bishimetals, subsidiaria de la empresa Mitsubishi, halló un yacimiento de cobre y molibdeno en medio de bosques primarios y ríos prístinos de la Cordillera del Toisán. El proyecto fue financiado por la Agencia Japonesa para la Cooperación Internacional (JICA por sus siglos en ingles) y ejecutado juntamente con apoyo del gobierno nacional a través de CODIGEM, una dependencia del Ministerio de Minas y Petróleo del Ecuador. El proyecto bi-nacional tuvo que ser abandonado en 1997 después de que las comunidades de Intag


PLANTÓN EN LA EMBAJADA DE CANADA

Boletín de prensa

Quito, 10 de noviembre de 2008

Esta mañana representantes de comunidades campesinas e indígenas del norte, centro y sur del país, acompañados por la dirigencia de la CONAIE, acudieron al consulado de Canadá.

El propósito fue entregar de manera pacífica al representante de este país una carta manifestando su oposición al interés de empresas mineras canadienses de realizar proyectos mineros a gran escala en tierras y territorios indígenas y campesinas del Ecuador.

La carta expresa entre otras cosas, que:

El Ecuador ya ha vivido la nefasta experiencia petrolera, que luego de 35 años, solo ha dejado mayor devastación ambiental, social y económica.

Su preocupación por el afán del Gobierno nacional por atraer la inversión minera, para lo cual demuestra un inusitado apuro por aprobar la nueva ley de minería, que otorga a las empresas mineras el "derecho a contaminar" e irrespetar principios y preceptos consagrados en la nueva constitución y en tratados internacionales.

* Denunciaron al representante del Gobierno canadiense y por su intermedio a la opinión pública de Canadá, sobre la violación a los derechos humanos de empresas mineras canadienses, como el caso de Ascendant Copper (ahora "mesa copper corporation") en Intag, de Corriente Resources (ECSA) en la Cordillera del Cóndor o IAM Gold en Azuay.

* Frente a todo esto, anuncian que los pueblos y comunidades campesinas e indígenas asentadas en zonas de concesión minera se encuentran movilizadas enmineria2 defensa de sus territorios.

La manifestación fue alegre y festiva ante panorama de la crisis financiera por la que atraviesa la industria minera.

Esta limita los recursos financieros para la inversiones, y demuestra una vez más que el modelo económico extractivista es insustentable e insostenible ambiental, social y económicamente.

CONAIE, Coordinadora Zonal de Intag, CODECONO, FRESMIGE, Acción Ecológica, CECONDEM, Coordinadora del Jubones (Azuay), Juntas de Agua de Jerusalem (Bolivar), Frente de Defensa por La vida del Cañar

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