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Kimsakocha Páramos in Ecuador. MiningWatch photo.

US-based Foundation Urges Canadian Company INV Metals to Abandon Controversial Ecuador Project, Highlights Risk to Investors

Kirsten Francescone Latin America Program Coordinator Kirsten Francescone works to support communities, organizations, and networks in the region struggling with mining conflicts.

On October 14th, a US foundation, Defend them All (DTA), sent an open letter to Canadian mining company INV Metals urging the company to abandon its activities in Ecuador following a field visit to the Kimsakocha páramo in south-central Ecuador.

DTA is a non-profit organization with offices in the USA and Canada which is “dedicated to improving the legal protections of animals and the environment.” It writes that it has been cataloguing and evaluating the impacts of the project since 2015, and sees the project as posing a grave risk to endangered animal and plant species, as well as communities in the area affected by the project. 

The letter cites mining engineer Jim Kuipers’ Expert Report and the company’s most recent Economic Feasibility study to highlight the risk of acid-mine drainage and arsenic contamination of an “incredibly sensitive and important ecosystem,” the Kimsakocha páramo.

It notes that the sustained overwhelming opposition to the project, as well as the almost inevitable risk of severe environmental contamination, also makes the project a financial risk for potential investors.

This reference to financial risk comes at a critical point in the project’s life. According to the company, INV Metals is currently trying to finalize the licences it needs, develop the environmental impact assessment, and work to gather sufficient financial backing to finance the construction of the mine. The company has been assuring potential investors in recent presentations that it has full government support in order to raise the over 300 million that it needs to build the mine, while saying – as a stark contrast to earlier presentations – that it has “a strong presence in the communities” as opposed to “strong local support,” as it has previously characterized the relationship. This is an important distinction to make, since anti-mining sentiment is growing like uncontrollable wildfire at the community and regional levels in Ecuador. The opposition from the communities surrounding Kimsakocha has held strong for nearly two decades, and their will and dedication is providing important national space to lead other communities in resistance to mining across the country by example. This past year showed a clear defeat of INV’s “community support” when it overwhelmingly lost a referendum vote against mining in the Kimsakocha páramo in the canton of Girón, and when an important Indigenous leader was elected on an anti-mining platform in the province of Azuay (where the Loma Larga project is situated).

There is perhaps no clearer example of this than the recent massive protests in Ecuador. The 11-day nationwide protests by Indigenous and campesino populations at the community level fortified a national Indigenous, campesino and labour movement which opposed a series of IMF-imposed economic austerity measures and declared itself in complete opposition to mining. In Cuenca, Tarqui, Santa Marianita (Girón), and Santa Isabel (the major transitways leading to and from the Loma Larga project) there were permanent road blockades which held strong despite brutal repression by the police and military. As well, in the initial days of the conflict, the camp at neighbouring suspended Rio Blanco mine was burnt to the ground. The opposition to mining is resounding and is sending important signals that potential investors for INV’s Loma Larga project need to pay attention to, despite the company’s total silence regarding the massive unrest in relation to its ongoing activities in Ecuador.

You can see the full copy of the letter here.

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