Ecuador Campaign: 2019 updates

THE BATTLE FOR LOS CEDROS CONTINUES

(Picture of pristine cloud forest valley filled with vines was here ...)

October 2018: An Action for Protection by supporters of Los Cedros was heard at a local court. In November, the friend of the court briefs were dismissed by the judge, Álvaro Cadena.  He claimed that ‘Protected Forests are not protected’, and there is no legal problem with large-scale mining in the reserve, as it lies within the Ecuadorian Government’s zone of Strategic Sectors. The judge’s other argument for dismissing the supporters’ briefs was that they were ‘not indigenous’ and therefore not entitled to express their concerns about damage to land and water resources.

The appeal for the Action for Protection was lodged on Tuesday January 15th. Community anti-mining organisation OMASNE pulled off a lively and successful rally outside the provincial courthouse in Ibarra where the appeal and friend of the court briefs were lodged, galvanising public awareness of the importance of this case. 

Los Cedros cannot afford to lose this appeal. It will send a massive green flag to all who wish to mine in this and surrounding areas – including Australian miners BHP, Solgold, Newcrest, Hanrine and Fortescue.

Meanwhile, exploration has already begun.  In early October, a helicopter with a military-trained pilot flew up and down the hills of Los Cedros each morning, making a huge racket and flying so close to the research station that the pilot could eyeball volunteers watching from the kitchen. If the volunteers were intimidated, imagine how the monkeys must have felt! It is likely that this was the Canadian mining company, Cornerstone, doing geological surveys for minerals. They’re not wasting any time. 

We're implicated too. Cornerstone’s concession covers 65% of the total area of Los Cedros, plus parts of the critical cloud-forest reserve known as Cotacachi-Cayapas, and local water catchments known to be the world’s only habitat for a critically endangered species of toad. Part of the remainder of Los Cedros is concessioned to (guess who) our very own Australian miner: BHP Billiton.

Nefarious tactics. As we speak, Cornerstone is pressuring local communities to support their bottom line, promising ‘jobs and free lunch’. Company spies have attempted to infiltrate the Los Cedros research base disguised as ‘attractive young women’.  They have also been making use of more standard tactics, such as the recording of community meetings and the conversations after last year’s court hearing.

On the up side, a team of eminent biologists and long-term supporters of Los Cedros spent a large part of November and December camping high in the cloud forest, an extremely muddy 12 hour hike away from the scientific station.  They gathered biodiversity data as part of a National Geographic expedition, with the aim of highlighting the critical need for preservation of the reserve in light of the current unprecedented threats against it. Photo credit:  Roo Vandegrift.

Other Events in Ecuador

January 26th: There have been new developments in the embattled Intag Valley (close to Los Cedros) where a massive community resistance against mining has been ongoing for 30 years. The community of Junín is in the centre of a mega gold mining project, Llurimagua, jointly owned by state company Enami EP and Chilean company Codelco. The report of a special examination by the State General Comptroller has just been heard.  It has found serious 'irregularities' in the conduction of the project, which is now in the advanced exploration phase. These include inadequate or incomplete community consultation, unacceptable levels of heavy metals in drinking and irrigation water, flawed environmental impact assessments prior to and during activity, and the failure of Enami EP to adhere to legal contract agreements with its partner, Codelco.  Overall, the very thorough examination has 'exposed the law-breaking that has been going on for years here, and it should impact on the outcome of the Los Cedros case,' according to a local activist who works closely with RIC. Stay tuned.

January 25th:  In Brumadinho, Brazil, an iron ore tailings dam burst, releasing a tide of mud and causing the worst environmental disaster in Brazil since the Samarco dam collapse in 2015.  According to the ABC news report two days later, 48 bodies have been recovered and 300 are still missing.  This devastating news has hit Ecuador's mining-affected communities, such as those in Intag, who have subsequently increased their resolve to keep fighting for their lands and water.

January 15th: On the same day that Los Cedros lodged its appeal, a provincial judge denied an action for protection against the infamous Mirador copper mine in Tundayme, southeastern Ecuador. Mirador has been the site of numerous serious human rights offences over recent years, including murders. Defendants lodged the action based on incidents of forced evictions, lack of adequate housing and clean water for those relocated, and violations of free, prior and informed consent. They have vowed to appeal the judge's decision.  

November 2018:  Ecuador takes to the streets. In spite of this, community mobilisation continues to strengthen. November 2018 saw more than 1500 indigenous people undertake a massive, 600km ‘March for Life’ through the mountains to the capital, Quito, in defence of clean water, their lands and livelihoods. 

Illegal mining complicates the picture.  In the Intag region, where Los Cedros is situated, communities are coming together to resist both large-scale mineral exploitation and the gnarlier problem of illegal small-scale mining. Small-scale mining has been done for centuries, and is a source of livelihood for many. But when thousands of people descend on a community, the industry is completely unregulated, and the whole thing gets mixed up with organised crime and trafficking, then things can get messy. Add into this mix the fact that some of the international concessions hosting illegal miners are owned by Australian companies like Hanrine, and … you get the picture. See the following report on MRAG’s website.

The purpose of our international Ecuador Endangered campaign remains the same: to rescind the mining concessions on over 2 million hectares of protected forests and indigenous territories in the world’s most significant and important biodiversity zone – the Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot.

While we know this is not going to be an easy task, it is the only possible way forward now that the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming, November 2018, has warned we have twelve years to cut out fossil fuels globally before we reach the point of no return.

The locals in Ecuador need our help to protect their lands and cultures for future generations – human and all of life.  In case any newcomers are reading, this is a great opportunity to encourage you to sign our petition and donate to our crowdfund.

Crowdfund money is currently going to two main recipients: the supporters of Los Cedros and their legal appeal, and the small but feisty MRAG (Melbourne Rainforest Action Group). Since May 2018, MRAG (auspiced by RIC) has been coordinating the Australian side of the Ecuador Endangered campaign.

Read on to see what MRAG has been up to!

MRAG (Melbourne Rainforest Action Group) updates

MRAG was (re)birthed as a result of some kick ass fundraisers that were held in Melbourne last year to support the Ecuador Endangered campaign. Since mid 2018 we have achieved an impressive list of outcomes.  Such as ...

IMARC, October 2018:  Several actions were held to remind top mining executives at the IMARC (International Mining and Resources Conference), Crown Casino, Melbourne, that the Earth is 'NOT FOR SALE'  A week of excitement, including the Zombie Ball on Halloween. Who are the real zombies? As you can see below (or not, as the pictures have disappeared for vague and mysterious reasons known only to NationBuilder) the Earth had a word or to to say for herself.

PDF information documents about Aussie mining companies:  These are available on our page (see links on right hand side). So far BHP, Solgold and Newcrest have been completed. BHP is now in Spanish and we have begun to distribute this among networks in Ecuador. Spanish translations of all other documents are in progress.  Fortescue Metals Group (English and Spanish) is almost complete, and a document on Gina Rinehart’s company and their subsidiary in Ecuador, Hanrine, is in progress. These latter two are smaller companies whose interests in Ecuador are relatively recent, but have ominous implications.

Get your mine today! Ecuador is basically the new El Dorado for copper in a world whose demands for this mineral are exponentially increasing. Companies big and small are jostling for their slices of the Ecuadorian copper pie. The cost will be the sacrifice of livelihoods, cultures, clean water and the most biodiverse forests on Earth. 

In case you haven't seen Ecuador Endangered's completely serious summary of the issue, see this video!

Knowledge is power. We are currently in the process of compiling resource packs for Ecuador locals who live in the concessions of Aussie companies. These will include basic information about the company concerned, and flash drives with videos and links for those more visually oriented. 

Concession maps: We have completed a comprehensive, almost up-to-the-minute series of layered maps showing where all Aussie concessions are in Ecuador, in relation to the locations of protected forests and indigenous territories. These can be viewed on the MRAG website here. NOTE that in early January 2019, the Ecuadorian Government approved many more concessions; we are waiting for these details to become publicly available.

Read our December newsletter here for a graphic summary of the above.

Meanwhile, 2019 has got to an eventful start for MRAG. On Jan 17th, the homes of several participants in the IMARC actions were raided by Victoria Police. 6 people were arrested and interrogated, and their phones, laptops and PCs confiscated. 

While MRAG were not involved in the raids, we stand in solidarity with those who were. It seems that the IMARC actions hit a raw nerve somewhere. These are indeed interesting times in which to exercise our freedom of speech in defence of our Mother Earth!

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