Today, Solaris Resources Inc—a Canadian junior mining company headquartered in Vancouver—holds its Annual Shareholder Meeting (AGM). And while Solaris leadership will highlight their plans to advance the Warintza project in the Ecuadorian Amazon, the newly-elected president of the Shuar Arutam People affected by the project says their people’s strong stance against mining remains firm.
The Warintza copper project, currently in its exploration phase, is slated to advance in the territory of the Shuar Arutam People in the Cordillera del Condor, southeast of the biodiverse Ecuadorian Amazon.
“There was never a free, prior and informed consultation as established by the constitution,” says Jamie Palomino, the newly-elected president of the Governing Council of the Shuar Arutam People (PSHA), the highest governing body for the Shuar Arutam People. “Therefore, ExplorCobres S.A. EXSA and Lowell Mineral Exploration [Solaris’ subsidiary in Ecuador] are operating illegally in our territory.”
Solaris Resources’ sustainability policy states that the company will “respect the culture, values and human rights of local communities, including the rights of indigenous peoples.” However, the PSHA has long-denounced that the company is systematically ignoring their collective rights as Indigenous peoples, including their right to free, prior, and informed consent and self-determination, is contaminating their freshwater through exploratory drilling, and causing community division. In the face of serious impacts and project-generated conflicts, this proposed mine has been called a high-risk project.
While Solaris CEO Daniel Earle has declared that “Through …dialogue [they] were able to resolve conflicts that had resulted in the breakdown of the social licence and to agree on a framework for operating the project,” representatives of the PSHA say the Warintza project does not have a social licence to operate. The PSHA is made up of 47 communities, 45 of which have voted in their internal assemblies against the project and against industrial mining in their territories. Previous PSHA leadership have been threatened for opposing the project, but newly-elected President Jaime Palomino is resolute in continuing to uphold the decisions of the Shuar Arutam People.
“We have protocols as Shuar people, and by passing resolutions in our assemblies, we have already said ‘no’ to industrial mining in our territory,” says Palomino. “Our territories are unique, they give us life and food. They provide everything for us.”
Speaking about the PSHA election, Tania Laurini – an investigative journalist for the LluviaComunicación collective based in the Ecuadorian Amazon – says, “There were three pro-mining candidates and one anti-mining candidate running in the election, and [Jaime Palomino] won because the majority of people continue to be against mining.” In this way, President Jaime Palomino’s election re-affirms the PSHA’s long struggle and resistance to extractivist activities in their territories that harm their ways of life, livelihoods, and water.
Last week in Quito, the PSHA joined national protests against mining and in defense of water and life, convened by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and the Frente Nacional Antiminero (National Anti-Mining Front). Both movements filed a lawsuit against “Decree 754” – a decree issued earlier this month by Ecuador’s President Guilermo Lasso which could speed up the process to obtain key mining licenses – claiming the Decree is unconstitutional. The Ecuador government has been aggressively pushing to attract foreign capital and become the “next mining destination.” Earlier this year, during the world’s largest mining convention held annually by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), the PSHA and CONAIE denounced the Ecuadorian government for promoting the Warintza project and Ecuador as a mining destination for investors, despite this overwhelming opposition to mining in the country.
As Solaris Resources’ investors meet in Vancouver today, strong demands from affected communities are clear: ““Transnational mining companies, like Canadian companies, must leave our territory and get off our lands. They’re not doing anything for us,” says PSHA President Jaime Palomino.
- Viviana Herrera, Latin American Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, [email protected], tel. 438-993-1264. In addition, to coordinate interviews with Jaime Palomino, president of the Shuar Arutam People (PSHA) or other Ecuadorian civil society organizations, contact Viviana (English, Spanish, or French).