As hundreds of people from the Ecuadorian countryside took to the streets in the capital city of Quito last Thursday, investors and dozens of international organizations voiced their objections to the activities of Canadian-based Ascendant Copper Corporation (TSX:ACX).
On July 13th, several hundred protestors closed down the Ascendant Copper offices in Quito. Men, women, and children, including the Ecuadorian Ombudsman and leaders of all local governments from the affected region, marched through the city, ultimately gathering in the central ‘El Arbolito’ Park in a unified display of resistance. Following the march, some people joined the Mayor of the Cotacachi regional municipality in a meeting with the Minister of Energy and Mines to discuss the illegality of Ascendant’s mining concessions.
“Ascendant has been asked to leave by all seven local governments in Intag as well as the County government of Cotacachi; their response has been to ignore the wishes of these elected officials and the great majority of Intag´s community presidents and organizations.” says Carlos Zorrilla, Executive Director of local conservation organisation DECOIN (Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag). “This is the height of arrogance. It is high time Ascendant leave the Intag and forget about the Junín mining project once and for all.”
The Ecuadorian people are not alone in their struggle. Since the international launch of the ‘No Means No Ascendant Copper’ campaign in May of this year, Ascendant has seen its investor support decrease by about 40%. Beatrice Olivastri, CEO for Friends of the Earth Canada explains, “Ascendant Copper has shown a blatant disregard for the Ecuadorian constitution and mining law, and their activities are being vehemently opposed by the affected communities. By informing the investment community through a public campaign about what Ascendant is really doing in the Ecuadorian cloud forest, we allow the market to work more effectively – it would seem that investors are beginning to realise that mining in a biodiversity hotspot is simply not a viable option.”
Over two dozen international human rights and environmental organizations, as well as labour unions and academics, offered their support to the people of the region in a letter addressed to Ecuadorian President Alfredo Palacio (attached). The letter, as well as subsequent letters also being sent by concerned individuals and groups overseas, express serious concerns with the extensive environmental implications of the proposed mine, as well as the role Ascendant Copper continues to play in increasing tensions in the region.
The Canadian government has refused to take a position on the issue despite a formal complaint by DECOIN, Friends of the Earth, and MiningWatch Canada — eventually withdrawn due to government mishandling of the process. The government is now holding roundtable discussions on regulating Canada’s extractive companies’ activities abroad.
“This must be dealt with urgently,” says MiningWatch Canada’s Jamie Kneen. “The roundtables won’t produce results fast enough for the people of Intag. As long as the Canadian government isn’t regulating what our mining companies are doing overseas, the least we as Canadian civil society can do is support these communities while they struggle to have their rights protected.”
For more information contact:
Beatrice Olivastri, Friends of the Earth Canada (mobile) (613) 724-8690
Andrée Germain, Friends of the Earth Canada (613) 241-0085 ext. 30
Jamie Kneen, MiningWatch Canada (613) 569-3439