The Ministry of Energy and Mines in Ecuador has ordered Ascendant Copper Corporation (Ascendant) to “immediately cease all activities intended to divide the community and disturb the citizenry’s peaceful life” around its proposed Junin Project. The company is facing numerous setbacks, including the recent order to stop community relations work, high levels of community opposition and the withdrawal of a major shareholder.
Documents obtained by Ecological Defence and Conservation Organization (DECOIN), a local environmental group in Intag show that Ascendant has not complied with previous agreements with the government of Ecuador, has failed to submit acceptable terms of reference for its Environmental Impact Assessment, and is in noncompliance of Article 88 of the Constitution, which requires previous consultation with communities before activities that may impact the natural environment take place.
According to Carlos Zorrilla, executive director of DECOIN, “Because of the unanimous local government and community opposition to the project, after millions of dollars and more than 3 years of owning the mining concessions, Ascendant has been unable to start exploration on its Junin property, and remains without a valid Environmental Impact Statement.”
Social tension has continued to escalate in the Intag region. Polibio Perez, a local leader who has spoken out against the Junin project, is under police protection due to death threats that he alleges were made by an employee working for a private security firm hired by Ascendant. Private security firms were implicated in violent conflicts around the Junin project in November and December of 2006.
In addition to the social and political obstruction to the project, on July 16th, Antofagasta PLC announced that it is withdrawing from Ascendant’s Chuacha project, due to preliminary studies showing low levels of mineralization. Ascendant will refund approximately $1.13 million USD to Antofagasta PLC. Bloomberg reported on July 16th that shares of Ascendant have declined 52% over the past 12 months.
“In light of official recognition of the longstanding problems surrounding Ascendant’s operations in Ecuador, it is clear that due diligence simply is not being exercised by brokers and investors with shares in Ascendant, nor by regulatory authorities in Canada, who have been investigating Ascendant for over a year” notes Zorrilla.
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