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Ecuador: ‘March for Life’ Says ‘No’ to Large-Scale Mining

The decision of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa to drive the growth [es] of large-scale mining in his country began to materialize last Monday, 5 March, 2012, with the signing of the contract [es] with Chinese funded company Ecuacorriente (Ecsa) [es] to mine the copper deposits in El Mirador, located in the Amazonian region of Zamora Chinchipe.

However, in spite of the promised economic benefits [es] that this contract is expected to bring to the country, indigenous Ecuadorian communities and other civil organizations are against these types of projects.

The day after the contract was signed, an activist group entered [es] the Chinese embassy in Quito to show their objection. Although the occupation of the site was peaceful, the police forcibly removed the women who resisted exiting the embassy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWWQ9_ZAW4k

In light of these events, the blog Elpescuezo republished [es] an article that was published by Ballenita si [es] magazine, that informs that after physically mistreating the activists, there is an effort on the part of the public prosecutor to accuse them of having been caught in the act, despite the fact that the embassy does not wish to press charges. The charge the prosecutor would bring would be for “Breaking and entering”. They also report:

Que el gobierno ecuatoriano ha decidido firmar el contrato minero sin que se haya aprobado el Estudio de Impacto Ambiental ni la Licencia Ambiental y sin el Consentimiento de las Comunidades y Pueblos Indígenas, requisitos indispensables para toda empresa minera.

The Ecuadorian government has decided to sign the mining contract without having passed an Environmental Impact Assessment or obtained an Environmental License, and also without the consent of the communities and indigenous people; indispensable requirements for all mining companies.

The El Mirador mining deposit zone is part of the territory that belongs to the indigenous community  Shuar, in the Condor Mountain Range [es], which is shared with Peru. It stands out as one of the most biologically rich and diverse regions on the planet, for which reason a mining operation such as the one proposed could have devastating ecological effects.

One major protest movement against large-scale mining in Ecuador that currently is taking place is called ‘Marcha por la Vida’ (March for Life) [es], organized by the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador — Conaie) [es], the Confederación Kichwa del Ecuador (Kichwa Confederation of Ecuador — Ecuarinari) [es], the Federación Única Nacional de Afiliados al Seguro Social Campesino (United National Federation of Affiliates for the Social Security of Rural People — Feunassc) [es], the Unión Nacional de Educadores (National Union of Educators — Une) [es], the Frente Popular Zamora Chinchipe (The Popular Front of Zamora Chinchipe) and the Asamblea de los Pueblos del Sur (Assembly of the Peoples of the South).

As a part of the call to action that that has been issued, of which the above video (as well as other videos [es]) are part, an open letter [es] was also written to the musical artists Manu Chao and Calle 13, where they detail their protests:

El mes de marzo será el mes de la Resistencia en Ecuador. Los pueblos indígenas, campesinos, realizaremos la “Gran Marcha Plurinacional por el Agua, la Tierra, la Vida y la Dignidad de los Pueblos” […] Partiremos en una caminata el 8 de marzo desde el corazón de la Cordillera del Cóndor en Zamora, donde se pretende abrir la puerta por primera vez en Ecuador de la Mega Minería. Esta caminata recorrerá las zonas donde las trasnacionales mineras ya se encuentran desplazando, expropiando y criminalizando a los pueblos; pasará por las comunidades campesinas del Centro del país y llegaremos el 22 de marzo a la capital de Ecuador Quito donde exigiremos al gobierno el respeto a la Pachamama, al agua y a la vida y el respeto para el Art. 3 del Mandato Minero, emitido por la Asamblea Constituyente, que decretó la eliminación de las concesiones mineras en fuentes de agua y en zona protegidas.

The month of march will be the month of Resistance in Ecuador. The indigenous rural people will fulfill the “Gran Marcha Plurinacional por el Agua, la Tierra, la Vida y la Dignidad de los Pueblos (Great Plurinational March for Water, Earth, Life and Dignity of the People” […] We will begin our march on 8 March from the heart of la Cordillera del Cóndor en Zamora, where they are attempting to open the way for large-scale mining to take place for the first time in Ecuador. This march will cover the zones where the translational mining developments already exist and are already displacing, expropriating, and criminalizing the people. It will pass through the rural communities in the center of the country, and we will arrive on 22 March in the capital of Ecuador, Quito, where we will demand that the government respect Pachamama, water, life, and also Article 3 of the Mining Mandate that was issued by the Constituent Assembly, which declared the elimination of mining concessions in water sources and protected zones.
Marcha por la Vida - Ecuador

"March for water, life and the dignity of the people"

The march began on 8 March from El Pangui [es] (see two videos of that day in this article [es]), and is expected to arrive on the 22nd in the capital city of Quito. The Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio published [es] a map with the itinerary of the march that is being updated daily as the march progresses.

President Correa, for his part declared [es] the beginning of the march a failure since only 500 people attended, while a pro-mining rally in Quito garnered thousands of attendants, and he encouraged [es] his supporters to remain committed to fighting the march.

Meanwhile the march continues on its route [es] and on 14 March could be seen [es] departing the town of Zhud and making its way towards Chunchi. It was estimated [es] that in Cuenca there were already some 2000 participants. On the website Marcha por la Vida [es] there are reports from the various places that have been visited thus far: Pangui, Cuenca, Loja, Saraguro, Nabón, Tarqui, Cañar y Azogues [all es].

Below are two videos of the march, the first in Cuenca the second in Saraguro [es]:

There are also other videos of the march in Azuay [es], Cuenca [es] and Tarqui [es]; some declarations [es] from Humberto Cholango, the leader of Conaie; and clips (1 and 2) [es] of the press conference at the beginning of the march.

On the website informatEcuador, reporters Alberto Acosta and William Sacher published a general report [es] on mining, but paid special attention the the future consequences for Ecuador. They note:

Para producir un total de 208.800 toneladas de concentrado de cobre, el proyecto minero a cielo abierto Mirador de la empresa ECSA (de capitales chinos) en la Cordillera del Cóndor producirá al menos 326 millones de toneladas de desechos durante la vida de la mina. Esta cantidad representa un volumen correspondiente a más de 4 Panecillos [*], ¡y es comparable a la recolección de basura de la ciudad de Cuenca por casi 5000 años!

In order to produce a total of 208,000 tons of copper concentrate, the opencast Mirador mining project that is being carried out by (the Chinese funded) ECSA in Cordillera del Cóndor will produce at least 326 million tons of waste during the lifespan of the mine. This quantity represents a weight equivalent to more than 4 Panecillos [*] and is comparable to collecting the garbage produced in the city of Cuenca for almost 5,000 years!

They go on to comment on the gold mines in Quimsacocha:

La zona del proyecto minero se encuentra precisamente en una de las principales fuentes de agua de la ciudad de Cuenca y de muchas otras poblaciones aledañas, cuyos habitantes, con justa razón, protestan en contra de esta actividad.

The mining zone for this project is located exactly on one of the main water sources for the city of Cuenca and many other towns. Many inhabitants of these towns are protesting against this activity with very good reason.

Lastly, they touch on the issue of the real economic benefits for Ecuador:

las minas ecuatorianas producirán el metal en forma gruesa, es decir con impurezas. Por ejemplo, el concentrado de cobre producido en Mirador tendrá aproximadamente 30% de cobre, 60% de otros minerales y 10% de agua. Debido a que el Ecuador no tiene refinerías de metales, el proceso de refinamiento se hará en el exterior, en donde quedará la mayor parte de las ganancias. A lo anterior habría que incorporar los llamados costos ocultos -ambientales y sociales-, por ejemplo el valor económico de la contaminación.

Ecuadorian mines will produce crude metal, that is to say, with impurities. For example, the copper concentrate produced in Mirador will have approximately 30% copper, 60% other minerals, and 10% water. Since Ecuador doesn't have metal refineries, the refining process will have to take place abroad, this is also where the majority of the profits lie. One also must account for the so called hidden costs, social and environmental, for example the economic cost of contamination.

Somos Agua - Marcha por la Vida - Ecuador

"We are water: we will flood Quito"

In the blog Ambiente Ecuador, Gustavo Morejón states his belief that there is much misinformation on the subject of mining in general. He believes that other factors, such as poor livestock rearing and bad agricultural practices, have a more negative impact on the forests and moors in the Quismacocha region. He adds [es]:

no puedo menos que preocuparme porque se ha prestado tanta propaganda al caso de las mineras, que las verdaderas causas de la pérdida de biodiversidad, han quedado relegadas. No existe persona alguna dentro de ese grupo que hable sobre aquello que ya está ocurriendo y que está terminando con los páramos y bosques andinos. No es necesario mentir para proteger las cuencas hidrográficas. ¿Porqué no dicen la verdad? No lo hacen porque “eso no produce réditos políticos”, eso no les va a dar votos en las próximas elecciones.

I can't help but worry because there is so much propaganda on the issue of mining that the real causes of the loss of biodiversity have been relegated. No one in this group is speaking out against what which is already happening; that which is already killing off our Andean moors and forests. It is not necessary to lie to protect our drainage basins. Why don't they tell the truth? They don't do it because telling the truth doesn't produce “political gains,” it won't bring them votes in the next elections.

While the protests, the controversy, and the political stirrings continue, the Ecuadorian government is already making headway [es] with its second contract of this type; in this case for the minebeds that have been named Fruta del Norte [es], also in the zone Zamora Chinchipe.

Images obtained via the website Marcha por la Vida [es].

Original post published on the personal blog [es] of Juan Arellano.

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