On Friday, Ecuador’s government announced that it was revoking Ascendant Copper’s mining concessions for the controversial Junin Project, an open pit copper mine located in one of the world’s most ecologically diverse regions.
Publicly, the government says it decided to revoke a total of 587 mining concessions for economic reasons; for instance, because of the companies’ failure to pay proper fees on the concessions. However it seems more likely that it’s because of the social and environmental consequences of the project. The government of President Rafael Correa just doesn’t want to say that.
If the project went ahead as Ascendant planned, it would have caused massive deforestation, contamination of the local water supply, threaten rare and endangered species, and forcibly relocate hundreds of families.
On top of that, it would seem Ascendant’s original purchase of the concessions wasn’t even illegal because “the government failed to consult with local communities as mandated by Article 88 of Ecuador’s constitution.” Then there’s the glaring fact that even before the project was in full swing, Ascendant’s “activities have caused social discord with local communities in the area and have been tainted by human rights abuses.
As I’m sure you can imagine, the families effected by the Junin project are thrilled with the government’s move. They were pretty much expecting to happen, but expecting it and knowing it are two very different things.
“As an Intag resident, I am ecstatic to be rid of a source of conflict that was tearing our communities apart,” said Carlos Zorrilla, executive director of Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag (DECOIN), a local grassroots environmental organization. “In our particular case, it is a clear triumph of community-based resistance over the destructive power of transnational corporations.”
Ascendant Copper, however–well let’s just say a name couldn’t be any more hypocritical. They continue to claim their innocence, saying things like this decision is “absolute bologna,” more or less a cowardly move by the government, and that there is just “no validity in this at all…we are going to protect those concessions with every legal alternative open to us.”
It would seem this recent move is also agitating the international business community. “Luke Penseney, CEO of Ontario-based Markets Intelligence, [says] that the government’s actions are dangerous. “You risk becoming a pariah, which is what Ecuador’s in danger of becoming,” said Penseney.
The position of Ascendant and the International business community is farce to say the least. They really do expect governments to be utterly subservient to them, to bow to their pressure instead of that exerted to protect communities, cultures, and the environment. And what happens when they can’t get their way? They issue veiled threats, (“You risk becoming a pariah”) and pledge their will to fight the law until it bends in their favor.
Fortunately, the government has the luxury of power so if it maintains it’s position, then Ascendant will undoubtedly fail. But it’s nonetheless a very revealing situation… One that, I must say, is far from being isolated. That is, except for the part about the government doing the right thing.
If you’d like to learn more about the situation with Ascendant in Ecuador, please visit Upside Down World.
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