On August 25, Cornerstone Resources (TSX:CGN) held its Annual General Meeting for shareholders, online and out of the reach of the communities and organizations most affected by its activities.
In response to this closed-door virtual meeting, communities in Ecuador affected by the company’s operations across the country raised their voices to have their concerns reach the ears of any investors and shareholders who might be listening. Their testimonies speak of the terrible harm that the company is threatening to sensitive ecosystems, endangered species, fresh clean water, sustainable economic development, and healthy social relations – all the elements upon which Indigenous and rural communities depend for their survival. These testimonies, available in video and written form, paint a clear picture of the practices of “responsible” mining companies that the Canadian embassy in Ecuador continues to promote.
Along with these testimonies, 32 Ecuadorian organizations signed an open letter to the company’s executive and board of directors. The letter, after outlining the extent and harm produced by Cornerstone’s activities, ends with the simple demand that the company leave the country immediately.
MiningWatch had been asked by these organizations to deliver the letter to Cornerstone’s Ottawa office, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have mailed it instead.
For more information about the Cornerstone day of action, you can find the compilation of the testimonies spoken by affected community members here, and you can watch this well-attended public webinar (in Spanish) hosted by CAMINANTES - Ecuador which ran parallel to the company’s AGM. You can also tweet out messages of solidarity to those Ecuadorian communities resisting cornerstone, using the hashtag #FueraCornerstone, and tagging @Caminantes_Ecu.
Members of the Executive and the Board of Directors Cornerstone Capital Resources Ecuador, August 25, 2020
Cornerstone: A Danger for the Communities and Ecosystems of Ecuador
Cornerstone Resources is an Ottawa-based Canadian mining company dedicated to mineral exploration. It is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and uses that stock exchange as a way of generating income for its activities, since like any junior company, it does not have capital for mining production. The company commonly operates on the basis of joint venture agreements with other exploration companies in Ecuador. In this way, it has managed to obtain concessions in the provinces of Carchi, Imbabura, El Oro, Azuay and Loja, for a total of 61,890 hectares. The company works through six subsidiaries: CESA, Exploraciones Novomining S.A, La Plata Minerals, Bellamaría Mining S.A, Caña Brava Mining S.A. and Vetas Grandes Mining S.A. With three of these, it has signed joint venture contracts (Ecuadorian State Company ENAMI and Australian companies SolGold and Sunstone).
We wish to inform the public that Cornerstone, through its aforementioned subsidiaries, is affecting and endangering valuable ecosystems that produce freshwater in the north and south of the country, as well as disrupting the lifestyles and socio-organizational and cultural fabric of the local Indigenous and peasant communities.
In the Carchi province, through the CESA-ENAMI alliance, works on the Espejo project (Espejo 1-4 concessions) which total 19,458 Ha and affect the communities of El Goaltal, in the Espejo canton of the Carchi province. These concessions overlap with 92% of the Protected Forest "Cerro Golondrinas", located in the Chical, Maldonado and Goaltal parishes. The forest is known for its high biodiversity and generation of water springs, which supply 13,000 agriculturalist families.
In recent years many communities throughout the northwestern part of the province, as well the Awá indigenous peoples, have expressed on multiple occasions, their rejection of Cornerstone’s activities, including, their arbitrary incursions and misinformation campaigns.
In the Imbabura province, through the same alliance, the 12,797-hectare Playa Rica project (Playa Rica 1-3 concessions) affects the communities of the parish 6 de Julio de Cuellaje, of the Cotacachi canton. These communities have long been dedicated to agriculture and tourism and as such they have prevented Cornerstone from gaining access to their concessions. In the same province, the Río Magdalena project (Río Magdalena 1 and 2 concessions) consisting of 9,907 hectares, affects the García Moreno parish in the Cotacachi canton, affecting the Intag Valley and covering 68% of the Los Cedros Protected Forest. At its southern limit, it also threatens the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, as well as the surroundings of the Río Manduriacu Ecological Reserve.
Given the risk that the Los Cedros Protective Forest faces and the diversity of flora and fauna that it houses, the municipal government of Cotacachi presented an action for Protective Measures, which, in July 2019, was accepted by the Provincial Court of Imbabura. As part of the ruling, the court resolved the annulment of the environmental registration permit of the Río Magdalena project. However, Cornerstone has continued to carry out exploration work in the Los Cedros Forest and generate division in the rural communities of the area of influence. That being said, just recently, this important ruling was selected by the Constitutional Court, as a reference for the development of constitutional jurisprudence, regarding the rights of Nature.
In the same Imbabura province, through the company’s subsidiary, Exploraciones Novomining S.A. ENSA (a joint-venture between Cornerstone 15% and SolGold 85%) is the Cascabel project, occupying 4,979 hectares. This project affects the Lita parish of the Ibarra canton. According to a report from the State Comptroller General , the company carried out advanced exploration, captured the water without the required plans or works, and expanded the area of operation in this project, without the respective authorizations; additionally, they were found to not have controlled or mitigated the impacts of drilling fluids, putting the properties of the water and groundwater at risk, as well as having discharged wastewater into bodies for human consumption, without complying with the regulations.
In the province of Loja, in partnership with Newcrest Mining, Cornerstone is working in the Caña Brava concession, in the Loja canton and Gualel parish over an area of 1,150 hectares; Likewise, in the same area it works on the Tío Loma project, of 4,950 hectares. Additionally, through the subsidiary La Plata Minerals, S.A. (PLAMIN) and in association with the Australian company, Sunstone, operates the 4,948 Bramaderos project, which affects the Guachanamá parish, in the Paltas canton.
Cornerstone’s activities constitute a threat to the Fierro Urco páramo wetlands while fracturing the cultural and organizational fabric of indigenous and peasant communities which have permanently expressed their rejection of mining. The slopes and lagoons that feed four hydrological basins in southern Ecuador originate in these páramo wetlands. Their protection is imperative in the provision of water for human consumption and irrigation for the surrounding populations. Indigenous and peasant communities have undertaken a series of actions to defend these watersheds, their water sources, and their agricultural lands.
In El Oro Province, through the subsidiary Bellamaría Mining S.A, and the Bella María project of 1,401 hectares, Cornerstone encompasses three parishes: Victoria of the Santa Rosa canton, Pasaje of the Pasaje canton and San Juan de Cerro Azul of the Atahualpa canton.
In Azuay province, the 2,300 hectare Shyri project, operated by the subsidiary Vetas Grandes Mining S.A, would affect the Santa Isabel canton as well as its sources of water, used for human consumption and agricultural activities. Due to mining opposition from the surrounding communities, Cornerstone had to dispense with several of its concessions, reducing the concession area to 2,300 hectares. If followed through, this project, together with others that exist in the province, will end up affecting the Kimsakocha, El Cajas and Río Blanco páramos wetland system. For this reason, social organizations in Cuenca have proposed to the Cantonal Council the protection of five rivers that constitute the hydrological system of the páramos threatened by mining.
The Constitution, the supreme law of the country, declares in Article 14 that the conservation of ecosystems, biodiversity and the conservation of soils are in the public interest; likewise, it establishes that water is an object of national heritage, essential for life (Art. 12). Additionally, beyond human rights, the Constitution recognizes Nature as a subject of rights and therefore its existence must be fully respected (Art. 71).
Given the illegality and arbitrariness with which the Cornerstone company, its subsidiaries and associates operate, and, because of the danger that its presence represents for the country's valuable ecosystems, as well as for local communities, we the signatory organizations demand that they immediately leave the country.
Organizations Signing this Public Condemnation
- Asamblea de Unidad Cantonal de Cotacachi
- Colectivo Mindo es Vida, Pichincha
- Federación Interprovincial de Indígenas Saraguro, FIIS
- Coordinadora de Organizaciones del Pueblo Kichwa Saraguro, CORPUKIS
- Asamblea Local Ciudadana de Portovelo
- Federación Provincial de Comunas de Loja
- Comité de Gestión del Sector Noroccidental del cantón Loja
- Consejo de Defensores de Derechos Humanos y de la Naturaleza, Loja
- Colectivo de Defensores del Agua y la Vida, Loja
- Colectivo de Defensa del Agua y la Vida, Portovelo
- Comité de Defensa de la Vida de Chuquibamba
- Junta de Riego de la Papaya, Saraguro
- Asamblea de los Pueblos del Sur
- Organización AKAKANA
- Asociación de Producción y Comercialización Agropecuaria San Roque
- Acción Ecológica
- Saramanta Warmikuna
- Oficina de Derechos de la Naturaleza
- Caminantes – Ecuador
- Colectivo Kanaka
- Defensa y Conservación de Intag, DECOIN
- Observatorio Minero Ambiental y Social del Norte del Ecuador, OMASNE
- Comunidad Amazónica Cordillera del Cóndor, CASCOMI
- Movimiento Ecologista de Mujeres del Sur del Ecuador
- Escuelas de Agroecología del Sur del Ecuador
- Comité Pro defensa del Agua y la Vida Santa Isabel
- Servicios para la Nutrición y Servicios de Salud del Ecuador
- Área de Salud de la Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar
- Savia Roja
- Yasunidos Guapondelig
- Yasunidos Piñas