(Paris/Quito/Ottawa) Today, FIDH, its member organization in Ecuador, CEDHU, and MiningWatch Canada, representing a group of campesinos and indigenous people affected by the first large-scale mining project in Ecuador with a contract to enter into production, have filed a request for review with the Canadian National Contact Point under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
EcuaCorriente S.A. (ECSA) holds the first contract with the Ecuadorian government for large-scale mining production. The Chinese consortium CRCC-Tongguan acquired the Ecuadorian subsidiary along with all of the holdings belonging to Corriente Resources in 2010. It continues to have two subsidiaries in Canada, justifying the presentation of the complaint in Ottawa.
“The Mirador Project could lead to irreparable harm of affected campesino and indigenous communities in the area, having already forcibly displaced several dozen families who have been obliged to abandon their homes and lands,” states Elsie Monge, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Human Rights Commission of Ecuador (CEDHU) and Vice-President of FIDH. “The Ecuadorian Constitution, which protects human rights and the rights of nature, must be upheld.”
In 2011, FIDH and CEDHU published a report denouncing impacts from this open-pit copper project on human rights and the environment that had already started to be felt, even before going into construction. Following various attempts to obtain justice in Ecuador and faced with imminent and serious consequences should the project go into production for people and the environment, these organizations find it necessary to file this complaint in Canada.
“The majority of the world’s mining companies are registered in Canada, for which reason Canada should comply with its international obligations, including those that come along with being a member of the OECD, and should adopt the necessary measures to guarantee that Canadian-registered companies respect human rights when operating abroad, even if they are registered in Canada solely to obtain tax benefits,” remarked Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.
The complaint calls for respect of the human rights of mining-affected communities in this case, including indigenous rights to self-determination and free, prior and informed consent and the right of the population in general to live in a healthy environment, free of contamination, based upon national and international law, as well as the spirit of “good living” or “sumak kawsay” as enshrined in the Ecuadorian constitution. The complaint also calls for the company to desist from further mining operations in Ecuador, given the serious risks and impacts on human rights and the environment, both current and foreseeable.
All mining concessions in Ecuador that were granted without prior consultation of affected communities or that overlapped with water supplies and headwaters were ordered to be revoked by order of the National Constituent Assembly when it passed the Mining Mandate in April 2008. Two months after the mandate was approved, then President of Corriente Resources publicly acknowledged the “tireless” efforts on the part of the Canadian Embassy in Quito to ensure good conditions for Canadian companies operating in Ecuador, which ultimately managed to maintain their projects despite the mandate’s applicability.
“The Mirador project should have been cancelled in accordance with the Mining Mandate. Now, considering the political lobby that the Canadian Embassy in Quito carried out in favour of corporate interests instead of advocating for respect of community rights, it’s time that Canada assume its responsibility for systemic and ongoing abuses as outlined in this complaint,” commented Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada.
In November 2012, during its periodic review of Ecuador, the United Nations' Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern about “the lack of consultation with indigenous peoples and nationalities to obtain their free, prior and informed consent regarding the exploitation of natural resources that affect them.”
The imposition of large-scale mining projects in Ecuador, like in much of Latin America, has brought along with it the stigmatization and criminalization of local communities and human rights and environmental defenders opposed to this activity. We share serious concern given this trend together with independent experts of the United Nations and other regional bodies.
La Ligue des Droits et Libertés of Québec joins with FIDH, CEDHU and MiningWatch Canada in this initiative.