More Troubles for Ascendant: Ecuador's Ombudsman Intervenes in the Junín Case

"....With the above antecedents, and in view of the fact that the facts denounced would indicate that Articles 24(6), 86, 87, 88, 89 and 91 of the National Constitution of the Republic have been violated and by virtue of the powers established in Article 96 of the National Constitution of the Republic and 2b) of the Organizational Law of the Ombudsman's Office, in my capacity as FIRST DEPUTY OF THE OMBUDSMAN, I HEREBY ORDER: That the corresponding dossier be opened in the Ombudsman's Office in order to investigate the facts denounced and issue a ruling on the enforcement of the fundamental rights listed above;..."

This is an extract of a major decision handed down earlier this week by Ecuador's First Deputy Ombudsman ("Comptroller-General") addressing some of the irregularities and illegalities surrounding Ascendant Copper Corporation's Junin mining project. The denunciation was presented by DECOIN (Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag) and two residents of the area against Ascendant's tactics and procedures as well as government institutions failing to carry out their respective duties to ensure full compliance of the law.

The Ombudsman's decision carries with it the obligation of state institutions to abide by its recommendations.

The violations mentioned in the decision have to do with the duty of the state to guarantee the right of local populations to be consulted prior to the state taking decisions that might affect the community's environment and the people's right to live in an environment free of contamination, among other fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

Copies of the ruling were sent to several government institutions requesting a response from them, and the Ombudsman also instructed Cotacachi's Mayor to take the necessary measures so that "he can prevent the implementation of activities contrary to the fundamental rights of the population of the community of Chalguayacu Bajo and other zones that may possibly be affected by the activities of the Golden 1 and Golden 2 concession."

Several lawsuits, administrative actions and other actions are planned for the near future to assure this project does not violate the residents' rights, by stopping it once and for all. These actions include a massive demonstration against the mining project in Ecuador's capital planned for next week. The demonstration will be led by local, regional and national elected officials.