MAC: Mines and Communities

Ecuador: Intag to Sue Canadian Stock Exchange and company - Líderes comunitarios de Intag demandan a la Bolsa de Valores de Toronto y empresa minera

Published by MAC on 2009-03-11

A Canadian law firm is representing three villagers from Intag, in northwestern Ecuador, who are suing Copper Mesa Mining Corporation (formerly Ascendant Copper) and the Toronto Stock Exchange. The villagers allege that company directors and the TMX Group (which manages the Toronto stock Exchange and Montreal Venture Capital Exchange) have failed to reduce the risks faced by farmers and community leaders who have faced violent threats and attacks for their opposition to a large open-pit copper mine in their pristine cloud forests.


Meanwhile, the Ecudaorian government is to allow Kinross and Corriente Resources to restart exploration, after nearly a year of a freeze on mining operations.




Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag, Ecuador


Ecuador to allow big miners to restart ops in March




4th March 2009


QUITO - Ecuador will allow Kinross and Corriente to restart exploration later in March after nearly one year of a freeze in mining operations, Oil and Mines Minister Derlis Palacios told Reuters on Wednesday.


Iamgold and International Minerals Corp will be allowed in about 45 days after governmental studies on their operations located in protected areas, Palacios said.


Ecuador banned all mining operations last April to halt land speculation and growing environmentalist protests in some mining provinces. "We have no problem that these companies restart activities after the new law was approved," Palacios said in a phone interview.


In January, Ecuador approved a new mining law that boosted governmental control over an industry that in recent years had attracted dozens of foreign companies exploring for precious metals.


Although OPEC-member Ecuador has no large-scale mining, some companies have found big deposits of copper, gold and silver in its southern region. Cash-strapped Ecuador is scrambling for funding to cover a widening fiscal deficit and large projects after the world crisis dragged down crude oil prices.


(Reporting by Alonso Soto; Editing by John Picinich)


Canadian miners restart their engines in Ecuador


Northern Miner


4th March 2009


The government of Ecuador used the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention in Toronto to announce that exploration drills will soon be turning again on Ecuadorian rock.


Jose Serrano Delgado, the sub-secretary of mines in the ministry of mines and petroleum of Ecuador said the ministry has lifted all suspensions on mining activities in Ecuador, and that formal letters notifying companies of this are in the mail.


The early word is that Kinross Gold and Corriente Resources will be able to restart their exploration programs in late March after nearly a ten month long hiatus.


That hiatus came after the government ordered a halt to all mining until it completed its new mining law.


In January, Ecuador approved a new mining law, and while details are still being sorted out, officials say it will include a provision for the government to earn roughly half of a mine's profits through taxes and levies.


And while such a figure may seem outrageously high, it is much in line with the government cut in other South American mining countries like Chile, Peru and Brazil.


Regardless of the tax regime, for the time being Canadian miners are only too relieved to have the long wait over.


Although the wait could be a bit longer for Iamgold.


Reuters reports that a government official in Ecuador said it will take roughly 45 days before the government finishes a study on the company's operations. The delay is in relation to some of its permits being in protected areas.


The move to restart the mining industry in the country comes within a context of falling crude oil prices and the global economic meltdown continuing unabated. Ecuador is an oil producing nation with a large deficit, and is in serious need of new sources of revenue.


Aurelian pleased with lifting of mining ban in Ecuador


Business News Americas


3rd March 2009


An announcement by the Ecuadorian government that it will finally lift a ban on mining and allow companies to resume operations is "positive news," the president of Aurelian Resources, Dominic Channer, told BNamericas.


"Right now we are waiting for the official letter of confirmation," he said.


The country's deputy mining minister José Serrano made the announcement during the 2009 PDAC International Convention being held in Toronto March 1-4.


Aurelian was acquired by miner Kinross Gold (NYSE: K) in September. In Ecuador, the company develops the Fruta del Norte project, which has inferred resources of 58.9Mt grading 7.23g/t gold and 11.8g/t silver.


In April, Ecuador's government issued an order suspending exploration and production at all mining concessions in the country while it drew up a new mining law, which has now been approved by congress and is waiting for President Rafael Correa to give the final green light before it can go into effect.


Both Aurelian and parent company Kinross have expressed their acceptance of the new law. "The law has a lot of safeguards and pays attention to all of the various classes of mining: small, midscale and large," Channer said in January.


Intag Activists to Sue Canadian Stock Exchange and Canadian company


News from Intag


21st February 2009


Marcia Ramirez and Carlos Zorrilla, community activists from the Intag area of Ecuador, will be visiting Canada from the 25th of February until the 7th of March as part of a tour to announce lawsuits against a Canadian mining company and the Toronto Stock Exchange.


Besides informing the public about the landmark lawsuits, the community members will be participating in York University's "Rethinking Extractive Industry: Regulation, Dispossession, and Emerging Claims", scheduled for March 7, 2009 at York University. They will also participate in the March 1st Toronto screening of Malcolm Rogge documentary film Under Rich Earth, which documents part of the struggle of the Intag people against mining development. Talks at several universities are also planned, including the University of Western Ontario, Huron, and York University.


They will be in Ottawa February 26 and 27th to meet with MiningWatch Canada and other human rights and environmental organizations working in the field of extractive industry and human rights. They also hope to meet with members of Parliament to sensitize them on the urgent need for the Canada to push through legislation to reign in Canadian mining companies overseas.


Marcia and Carlos, along with their lawyers from Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors of Toronto, will be announcing the lawsuit against the Canadian mining company and the Toronto Stock Exchange for their alleged involvement in human rights abuses at a mining concession site in Ecuador. A press conference will be held in Toronto the week of March 2 by members of the affected Ecuadorian community."


Canadian Mining Firm Financed Violence in Ecuador: Lawsuit
TMX Group denies claim. Win could affect thousands of other projects by Canadian companies.


By Jennifer Moore


TheTyee, Canada


3rd March 2009


"Financing being raised in Canada is travelling across borders to do harm," said lawyer Murray Klippenstein by phone from his office in Toronto. "We want to find out if our legal system can respond to this."


Klippenstein is perhaps best known for his representation of the estate and family of native activist Dudley George, who was shot and killed by police in Ipperwash Provincial Park in Ontario in 1995. This lawsuit revealed deep political involvement from the premier's office and resulted in a landmark public inquiry.


In another ambitious and possibly precedent-setting case, Klippenstein is representing three villagers from the valley of Intag in northwestern Ecuador who are suing Copper Mesa Mining Corporation and the Toronto Stock Exchange. They allege that company directors and the TMX Group have not done enough to reduce the risk of harm being faced by farmers and community leaders in Intag who have faced violent threats and attacks for opposition to a large open-pit copper mine in their pristine cloud forests.


Still, they hope to go further. "What is happening in Intag is illustrative of a wider problem," a summary of the legal claim states, "the corporate and financial unaccountability of the Canadian mining industry." So while the case uses established legal principles, the plaintiffs hope it will lead to long-awaited legal reforms to help better control thousands of Canadian financed projects abroad.


Klippenstein, who said he "has learned to go miles on very little," acknowledges the "staggering financial mismatch" and says that companies have hundreds of millions of dollars to gain, so it won't surprise him if they spend tens of millions on the case. He also anticipates years of counterattacks, including motions and appeals on technicalities.


But he emphasized that the basics of the case are straightforward. "There's a simple fundamental legal point that you shouldn't harm somebody and that you shouldn't use your money to hire someone who you know is likely to do harm."


Conflict escalates


Marcia Ramírez is secretary of the Intag Community Development Committee. She lives near the end of the road in an isolated village in one of the most biodiverse places on earth. Her community of Chalguayaco Alto sits at the crossroads of two biodiversity hotspots, the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena and the Tropical Andes.


"It isn't fair," she told The Tyee, "that a foreign company can come here and contract people who attack us for defending our rights, for wanting to live in a healthy environment, for defending our land and our water." She added, "We'd like the stock exchange to listen to us and to understand that we've been very hurt by one of their companies."


Now 25 years old, the fight against large scale copper mining has marked daily life for the diplomatic and dedicated leader since she was about 12.


Broad-based opposition to large scale copper mining arose when a Japanese company was initially carrying out mineral exploration a short distance away. When the company released its Environmental Impact Assessment report for the proposed mine, the news that four communities would be displaced, as well as massive deforestation, local desertification, river contamination and harm to endangered species sparked vociferous opposition that persists.


Since Copper Mesa, who has a strategic alliance with the giant Rio Tinto, took over the project in 2004, new issues have emerged with apparent attempts to break the opposition. Now land trafficking, threats of violence, as well as relatively high-paying job offers have been driving a wedge between neighbours and families in these rural communities.


"But," commented Ramírez, "what most hurt is when they came... with armed men and sprayed us with gas."


In early December 2006, over 50 heavily armed security guards, mostly ex-soldiers, were hired to reach company concessions and set up camp. Local residents had been tipped off and gathered along the narrow dirt road that the company-hired trucks would have to pass. When they arrived, Ramírez and others tried to urge the armed men to turn around. But instead, the security agents sprayed tear gas into their faces from only a metre away and fired their weapons into the air, injuring one man, also a plaintiff in the case.


When the residents didn't back down, the guards finally retreated.


The incident was caught on film by a European student researching the controversy and is retold as part of the recent film Under Rich Earth by director Malcolm Rogge that debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. It has also been denounced in a complaint to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.


Prior warning


Canadian authorities were warned that such an incident could arise.


On March 8th, 2005, three months before Copper Mesa (then Ascendant Copper) was listed on the TSX, County Mayor Auki Tituaña wrote to the Finance and Audit Committee of the Toronto Stock Exchange: "We consider it to be appropriate and fair that before accepting open "trade" of Ascendant Copper Corporation's stocks in the Stock Market, you evaluate in depth the "new" company's merits..."


Included in his list of 14 concerns were lack of prior community consultation, lack of legally required municipal approval, violation of a municipal ordinance that declares the area an "Ecological County," as well as attempts to foster divisions as a "means to achieve company profits against the citizen's will and at a cost of the loss of unique biodiversity in our territory."


Then in May, Carlos Zorrilla, executive director of the Ecological Defense and Conservation of Intag (DECOIN), travelled to Ottawa to present a complaint to the Department of Foreign Affairs claiming that Copper Mesa had violated the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Mining Watch and Friends of the Earth Canada supported the claim.


"I'm here," he says in a press release, "because Canadians need to understand the real risk of violence that is emerging as a result of this company's activities." He added, "The Canadian government must take action to curb the excesses of Canadian mining companies operating and exploring overseas."


The complaint was withdrawn after eight months when it was apparent that the appropriate authorities would not apply the relevant procedures. The legal summary notes that "the TSX stock market listing of Copper Mesa has allowed the company to obtain over $25 million in capital funds -- some of which paid for the armed attackers" in December 2006.


Carolyn Quick, director of corporate communications for the TMX Group, told The Tyee her firm considers the case to be "entirely without merit" and that they will "vigorously defend this position." She would give no further comment about the letter from Mayor Tituaña nor the complaint made to DFAIT. No one from Copper Mesa was available to speak with The Tyee.


Globalization of legal accountability


Another challenge in holding companies to account in Canada, where the bulk of the world's mining companies are based, are complicated corporate structures that criss-cross continents.


"By dispersing their actions across borders and saying that 'Well, we didn't do that in Canada or Ecuador, that decision was made in the U.S.,' they can evade accountability. The courts can respond and say 'Take this case somewhere else,'" says Klippenstein.


Copper Mesa whose headquarters in Colorado, "has connections to some nine different legal jurisdictions, making it difficult to identify which jurisdiction is the proper one in which to hold the corporation accountable," says the legal summary of the case.


The former website of Copper Mesa (then Ascendant Copper) acknowledged that its corporate structure makes suing directors difficult: "All of the directors of Ascendant and substantially all of their assets and those of Ascendant are located outside of Canada. It may not be possible for purchasers of securities being qualified for distribution under this prospectus to effect service of process within Canada upon directors who reside outside of Canada..."


It is for this reason that the lawsuit focuses on decisions allegedly made in Ontario.


'Establish clear legal norms in Canada'


However, one possible advantage for rural residents of Intag preparing for a lengthy legal battle on tricky Canadian territory is that they are not alone in their concern.


Their broader goals for legal regulations of Canadian mining companies echo what the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (SCFAIT) and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and other civil society groups have already been saying.


While Carlos Zorrilla was in Ottawa in 2005, the SCFAIT was writing its 14th report, which recommended that the government "Establish clear legal norms in Canada to ensure that Canadian companies and residents are held accountable when there is evidence of environmental and/or human rights violations associated with the activities of Canadian mining companies."


The government responded saying that it "will continue to examine the best practices of other states attempting to address the accountability of businesses for activities conducted abroad." But it has yet to implement mandatory rules.


Still Klippenstein is hopeful in the face of tough odds. "One has to trust in the promise of a certain amount of fairness and independence that the justice system can provide. It has been shown that powerful people can be brought to kneel this way before."


It took eight years of legal proceedings before a public inquiry was called in the Dudley George case. They never even made it to court, but a long list of recommendations was implemented.


Ramírez is also optimistic that they have a chance at justice through Canadian courts as part of their fight to leave Intag's cloud forests intact.


She points out the variety of sustainable development projects that they have been working on as alternatives to large scale mining, including community owned watersheds, a mixed mini-hydroelectric company, as well as agricultural and tourism initiatives. She urges Canadians to see the benefits: "We want future generations to have what we have."


Líderes comunitarios viajan a Canadá para enjuiciar a la Bolsa de Valores de Toronto y minera canadiense


Actúan en nombre de la comunidad afectada por explotación


Ecuador Inmediato - Edición N° 1690


3 de Marzo, 2009


Marcia Ramírez y Carlos Zorrilla, activistas comunitarios de la zona de Intag, Ecuador, estarán en Canadá del 25 de febrero hasta el 7 de marzo, como parte de un gira para informar sobre las demandas planteadas por comuneros de Intag en contra una empresa minera canadiense y la Bolsa de Valores de Toronto.


Aparte de informar al público sobre el histórico juicio, los comuneros participarán el foro "Replanteando la Industria Extractiva: Regulación, Despojo y Reclamos Emergentes, del 5-7 Marzo, 2009, la cual se desarrollará en la Universidad de York, Toronto.


También participarán en la proyección del documental Under Rich Earth (Bajos suelos ricos) del cineasta Malcolm Rogge, el cual documenta parte de la lucha del pueblo de Intag en contra el desarrollo de la minería en sus tierras. Charlas en varias universidades también están programadas, incluyendo en la Universidad de Western Ontario, Huron, y la Universidad de York.


Estarán en Ottawa 26 de febrero y 27 para reunirse con MiningWatch Canadá y otras organizaciones ambientalistas y de derechos humanos que trabajan en el ámbito de la industria extractiva y derechos humanos. Esperan poder reunirse con miembros del Parlamento a fin de sensibilizarlos respecto a la urgente necesidad que Canadá cuente con una legislación adecuada para controlar, de manera más efectiva, a sus empresas mineras en el exterior.


Ramírez y Zorrilla, junto con sus abogados de Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors de Toronto, realizarán una rueda de prensa en el transcurso de la semana del 2 de Marzo en Toronto, para dar a conocer los detalles de la demanda en contra de la empresa minera y la Bolsa de Valores de Toronto, por su presunta participación en violaciones de derechos humanos suscitados en una concesión minera en el Ecuador.


Ecuador permitirá a mineras reanudar operación marzo




4 de marzo 2009


QUITO - Ecuador permitirá que las mineras canadienses Kinross y Corriente reanuden sus exploraciones en marzo luego de casi un año sin operar, dijo el miércoles a Reuters el ministro de Petróleos y Minas de ese país.


Además, las mineras Iamgold e International Minerals Corp. podrán volver a operar en unos 45 días, después de estudios que realizara el Gobierno sobre sus trabajos en áreas protegidas, dijo Derlis Palacios.


Ecuador prohibió en abril pasado todas las operaciones mineras para frenar la especulación de terrenos y las crecientes protestas de ambientalistas en algunas provincias. "No tenemos ningún problema para que estas empresas reinicien sus actividades luego de la aprobación de la ley", dijo Palacios en una entrevista telefónica.


En enero, Ecuador aprobó una nueva ley minera que elevó el control del Gobierno sobre una industria que en años recientes ha atraído a decenas de firmas foráneas para explorar metales preciosos.


Ecuador no tiene una minería de alta escala, pero algunas empresas han encontrado grandes depósitos de cobre, oro y plata en el sur.


(Por Alonso Soto. Editado en español por Magdalena Morales)


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