It was a hot, perfectly sunny day in the town García Moreno where, depending on three different sources, between 500 and 800 representatives from all of Intag's Parishes and most of its communities, in addition to most organizations working in the Intag area of Northwest Ecuador, met to try and resolve once and for all the problems created by the presence of Ascendant Copper Corporation, which has generated a strong and determined resistance to its copper mining project (the higher estimate of attendees came from an official police report of the event).
Hundreds of men, women and children of all ages came in more than 12 small pick-up trucks, large trucks and on foot from small villages as far as 3 hours away, bringing colorful banners bearing strong anti-mining messages, and with only one goal in mind: to tell Ascendant to go home. The area has been the scene of recent and violent confrontations between communities and mining employees, which last December led to the burning of Ascendant's mining camp in the area. Three hundred persons from over a dozen communities assumed responsibility for the torching of the camp, and Ascendant filed three separate criminal lawsuits against 10 women and men from several farming communities as a result of three community direct-action measures.
Many of the speakers at Saturday's assembly complained bitterly of the deep divisions created by the presence of Ascendant in this mountainous area of small villages, clean rivers and tranquil lifestyle, situated about 4 hours away from the famous Andean town of Otavalo, Imbabura province.
Though there have been other assemblies with similar resolutions in the past, this time, the resolutions were presented by seven local government officials. In Ecuador, parish governments are the equivalent of a small municipal government, with their own jurisdiction, laws and ordinances. This is, as far as we know, the first time so many local governments have publicly called for the immediate expulsion of a mining company in Ecuador, and perhaps in the world.
About 90% of the speakers representing the parish governments, communities and organizations expressed their heartfelt opposition to mining, including all the parish government officials.
At the end of the meeting the assembly approved several resolutions, but the most important one was that:
ASCENDANT HAS TO LEAVE INTAG IMMEDIATELY
The proposal received nearly unanimous support, and a deadline of two weeks was given for them to clear out.
The resolution also called for the expulsion of any other company with links, or being financed by Ascendant – including Daimi Services and Terrambiente – and warned the national government that they will not permit the presence of this, or any other mining company in Intag.
The measure also included the creation of a new Intag-wide umbrella development organization to oversee the area's sustainable development, based on the conservation of the natural resources. Intag is within two of the world's 34 Biological Hotspots, exceptionally rich in water resources, and the copper project was situated in an area rich in primary cloud forests, protecting dozens of mammal, amphibian and bird species threatened by extinction.
There were no violent incidents, due in part to the low turnout of the pro-mining faction, which did not exceed 80 persons; some of which were company employees.
For more information and to view photos of the event, please go to: www.decoin.org
Contacts: Carlos Zorrilla
Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag
PO Box 144,