|Written by Daniel Denvir for UpsideDownWorld, Photographs by Ximena Warnaars|
|Friday, 09 January 2009|
The ongoing conflict over mining in Ecuador escalated this week as blockades shut down highways throughout the country’s Southern Andean highlands and Amazon rainforest, while nationwide protests have been called for January 20.
The government of President Rafael Correa has assumed an aggressive posture, insulting indigenous and environmental activists and pledging to secure approval for a controversial new Mining Law. Canadian companies hold the majority of mining concessions in Ecuador and are pressing for a new law that would allow for large-scale, open pit metal mining.
A number of leaders have been arrested and other protesters were beaten and shot at by police. Campesino and indigenous protesters, who depend on clean water to farm and for drinking water, are demanding that the government shelve President Rafael Correa’s proposed Mining Law, saying that it would be a social and environmental disaster. The rural blockades follow months of regular protests in Quito and other parts of the country.
Protesters also argue that the law contradicts important provisions of the new constitution protecting water, the environment and indigenous peoples’ rights. The document drew international attention for awarding legal rights to nature. The new constitution, approved by popular referendum in September, is the centerpiece of Correa’s first term.
After emergency meetings on January 7, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) called for a national mobilization on January 20, calling the government “dictatorial.” It is unclear whether the January 20 mobilization will spread road blockades to other provinces in central and northern Ecuador. Protesters are demanding a dialogue with central government leaders and for a broad national discussion on mining before any legislation is passed.
Some protesters in the Southern provinces of Zamora Chinchipe and Morona Santiago suspended their blockades for 24 hours in response to the provincial governor’s promise to reach out to Francisco Cordero, the President of the Congresillo, Ecuador’s interim legislature. Other blockades were suspended in anticipation of the nationwide actions.
The blockades began on Monday January 5 in the Southern province of Azuay, cutting off much of the traffic into and out of Cuenca, Ecuador’s third largest city. Over the next few days, the protests spread to the neighboring Andean province of Loja and to the Amazonian provinces of Zamora Chinchipe and Morona Santiago.
In Giron, Molleturo, Tarqui (Azuay), Limon Indanza (Morona Santiago) and in El Pangui (Zamora Chinchipe) protestors have been beaten or shot by police. Police officials and journalists were released after being briefly detained by campesinos.
On January 6, campesino leader Vicente Zhunio Samaniego was arrested in the Southern province of Morona Santiago, showing up 16 hours later in a hospital with bullet wounds to the head. On January 7, protest leader Miguel Ángel Criollo and his son Orlando were arrested in an early morning raid on the village of Pueblo Nuevo in Azuay province. The newspaper El Universo reports that over fifty police officers from the Special Operations Group (GOE) took part in the raid. When villagers tried to defend the Criollos from arrest, police fired tear gas, forcing the evacuation of a local school.
In the city of Cuenca, police violently repressed protests at the Court of Justice. As six leaders began a hunger strike inside the building, the police attacked a press conference taking place outside the building, arresting Water Board leader Carlos Pérez Guartambel. Police used tear gas to disperse protesters attempting to defend Pérez. Police then forced hunger strikers and four women supporting them out of the Court building, dragging them by their necks. The governor of Azuay denied that Pérez was arrested, and he was freed later that day. The six hunger strikers are now in Cuenca’s San Roque Church.
According to the newspaper El Comercio, Minister of Mines and Petroleum Derlis Palacios said that the government would push forward with the Mining Law. Palacios said that Ecuador “was a poor country that could not afford to just sit on these large resources.” He added that protests were the result of manipulation by indigenous leaders who mislead community members by claiming that mining would harm their access to clean water. Palacios said that the new law would ensure that water sources are protected. Congresillo President Cordero told El Comercio that protesters were using the demonstrations to advance electoral ambitions.
The CONAIE condemned the government’s description of protesters as “criminals and subversive terrorists,” saying that “the only thing we are fighting for is life and dignity for all of Ecuador’s citizens.” The CONAIE that such comments are aimed “to stigmatize [protesters] and prepare public opinion for even more severe repression.”
Correa is coming into increasing conflict with social and indigenous movement activists. On Thursday January 8, the United Labor Front (FUT), Ecuador’s largest labor federation, announced mass protests for a higher minimum wage increase for January 15. They say that Correa’s proposed increase of $18 a month, to $218, is a step back and fails to meet provisions in the new constitution ensuring that all Ecuadorians are paid a living wage.
Tags: amazonia, Brazil, environmeni, genocide, gold miners, indigenous, mining, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: profits from the extraction of valuable metals by miners versus human lives. Who wins?
Published on Thursday, August 30, 2012 by Common Dreams
Up to 80 Yanomami in Venezuela killed by Brazilian gold miners
As many as 80 Yanomami Indians have been killed in a “massacre” carried out by unauthorized gold miners from Brazil, leaving charred remains of a community and polluted rivers in its wake.
Survival International, a London-based groups that works for tribal peoples’ rights worldwide, says that the massacre took place in July but news of the event is only coming to light now due to the community’s remote location in Venezuela’s Momoi region close to the border with Brazil.
The Guardian reports on the details of the massacre: “According to local testimonies an armed group flew over in a helicopter, opening fire with guns and launching explosives into Irotatheri settlement in the High Ocamo area. The village was home to about 80 people and only three had been accounted for as survivors, according to people from a neighbouring village and indigenous rights activists.”
Witnesses who saw the aftermath of the massacre reported seeing “burnt bodies and bones” and a burnt communal home.
Luis Shatiwe Yanomami, a leader of the Yanomami organization Horonami, told Survival International that the problem of illegal mining has been ongoing. “‘For three years we have been denouncing the situation. There are lots of goldminers working illegally in the forest.”
Luis Bello, a lawyer in Puerto Ayacucho who defends indigenous rights, says that these mining activities are on the rise and “have also become more sophisticated. They used to fly in and land in clandestine strips, now they come in helicopters and use huge extracting machinery that is decimating the jungle.”
Survival International says that the number of unauthorized gold miners in Yanomami territory now number 1,000. When they come, they bring diseases like malaria to the isolated tribe. The mining itself is devastating to the local environment, as it pollutes rivers with mercury. On top of the mining, the tribe faces threats from cattle ranchers who bring deforestation to the rainforest.
“This is another appalling tragedy for the Yanomami – heaping crime upon crime. All Amazonian governments must stop the rampant illegal mining, logging and settlement in indigenous territories. It inevitably leads to massacres of Indian men, women and children. The Venezuelan authorities must now bring the killers to swift justice, and send a signal throughout the region that Indians can no longer be killed with impunity. The mining and logging must be stopped,” said Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International
Tags: athabaska, canada government, canadian mining, evnrionment, fidel castro, Latin America, mining, oakland ross, oilsands, roger hollander, Stephen Harper
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Former Cuban President Fidel Castro, seen here late last month, has criticized Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper over “irrparable” environmental damage from Alberta’s oilsands.
In a column that appeared Monday in Granma, official organ of the Cuban Communist Party, the island’s former ruler says he believes the Prime Minister goes by the name Stephen Harper — but it’s hard to be sure.
In other words, Stephen Who?
Devoting his 1,100-word column almost entirely to Canada and its alleged shortcomings, Castro, 85, finds much to criticize and lament about this “beautiful and extensive country.”
Are we a colony, a republic, or a kingdom? According to the man with the famous beard, we apparently don’t know ourselves — and neither does he.
Worst of all, however, is the human and environmental damage that Castro says is being inflicted upon many Latin American countries by rapacious Canadian mining companies.
“I became really depressed when I deepened my understanding of the facts about the activities of Canadian transnational companies in Latin America,” writes Castro.
He implies that Canadians, of all people, ought to know better than to exploit the natural and human resources of other countries, considering what the United States is supposedly doing to Canadians.
“I knew about the damage that the yanquis are imposing on the people of Canada,” Castro writes, in reference to the development of the Athabaska oilsands in northern Alberta. “They are obliging the country to seek petroleum, extracting it from large extensions of sand impregnated with this liquid, causing irreparable damage to the environment.”
That experience makes it all the more reprehensible, he suggests, when Canadian mining companies turn around and cause “incredible damage” to “millions of people” in the search for “gold, precious metals, and radioactive material” in Latin America.
Tags: Canada, canadian mining, carolos zorilla, copper mesa, cyril mychalejko, Ecuador, environment, human rights, intag, Latin America, mining, mining industry, roger hollander, tsx
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|Written by Carlos Zorrilla and Cyril Mychalejko|
|Tuesday, 26 April 2011 21:20|
Intag residents lose much more than a lawsuit against the Toronto Stock Exchange and Copper Mesa
On December 2, 2006, 14 paramilitaries armed with 38-caliber guns and pepper spray fired into a group of unarmed Ecuadorian campesinos from a community that has been resisting a copper mining project for over a decade. Thankfully no one was killed, but there were several injuries, not to mention the psychological suffering caused by such a vicious attack.
This assault led three of the local campesinos from Intag, Ecuador to file a lawsuit against the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and Copper Mesa Corporation, the Canadian mining company responsible for hiring the “security firm” that sent the paramilitaries to intimidate the anti-mining residents of the region.
“I ask the noble people of Canada,” said Ramírez when she filed the lawsuit in March 2009, “that you demand from your elected authorities significant changes in your national legislation so that what has happened with Copper Mesa in Intag will never happen again, not in Intag nor in any other part of the world.”
John McKay, a Liberal Member of Parliament from Canada, actually introduced legislation that would have been a concrete first step in holding Canadian mining companies accountable for their behavior overseas. Bill C-300 would have sanctioned the Canadian federal government to investigate human rights and environmental complaints filed against companies with the authority to cancel any governmental funding if found guilty. While some activists and NGO’s leveled criticism against the bill for being too tepid, most supported the legislation. Unfortunately the Canadian government, largely perceived to be in the pockets of the mining industry, did not and the bill was voted down. Catherine Coumans, research coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, has charged the government with “aiding and abetting” the industry’s inhumane, if not criminal, behavior.
Injustice and Impunity Continues
“Do Canadians really want to have their legal system on the one hand authorize Canadian mining companies to go abroad to developing countries, and then on the other hand totally absolve the directors in Canada of any responsibility whatsoever for human rights abuses those companies may perpetrate there?”asked Murray Klippenstein, legal counsel for the Ecuadorians, who is also legal counsel for a widow in Guatemala whose husband was murdered by the head of security of a Canadian mining subsidiary because of his outspoken concerns about the activities of the company.
But the ruling also produces another very unsettling effect, or better put, reinforces a widely-held belief in the extractive industry resistance movements overseas: that it is a waste of time, energy and funds to try to use the judicial system in order to have their rights recognized and communities protected. The implications are troubling.
One example to illustrate this point is the infamous Chevron-Texaco case where 18 long years had to pass before the 30,000 Ecuadorian indigenous and campesino plaintiffs got a favorable sentence in an Ecuadorian court for their lawsuit based on the grave health impacts from years of petroleum extraction- and contamination- in the Amazon. The destruction has been such that it’s been labeled a “Rainforest Chernobyl”. But even now the case could be held up in courts for an additional decade from appeals, meaning that many of the plaintiffs will have died before the possibility of collecting what is due them.
Canadians don’t hear too much about the environmental destruction and social upheaval their oil, gas and mining industries are spreading overseas. In spite of countless reports of human rights violations all over the world, Canadian corporations have been very successful at greenwashing the news back home and replacing it by images of the “socially responsible” Canadian corporate citizen bringing wealth and development abroad.
However, if the lawsuit contributed to the company being expelled from the TSX, as it was on February 2010, leads to its bankruptcy, and as a result pressures the judicial system in Canada to open itself up to legitimate lawsuits brought by communities overseas against their extractive industries, then it was very much worthwhile. If, in the long run, it will contribute to bringing about legislative reforms that will effectively reduce or stop the murders of anti-mining activists, like what happened in El Salvador and Mexico, and other human rights, social and environmental abuses, then it will have been a major victory. Much depends on how much information is able to filter through to the average Canadian, and what it will take to get them outraged to demand such changes.
Another Victory for the Mining Industry
The question that begs answering is: When the judicial system so utterly fails to guarantee minimum justice in cases of clear abuses by transnational corporations, or when the litigation is economically so out of reach for the majority of effected people, what other route is there for communities to seek justice? (The costs of the Canadian case was over a $100,000, although luckily it was all pro bono thanks to the law firm Klippensteins in Toronto.)
Communities understand, not only at a gut level but also through experience, that they are politically and legally outmatched by powerful corporations with deep pockets and decades of experience thwarting justice by manipulating the court systems. Rulings such as Ramirez vs. Copper Mesa only reaffirm this belief.
Therefore, many communities could read into the defeat of the lawsuit that their only practical (and affordable) solution to the threats that mining and other extractive industries pose on their rights, land and cultures lies in physically standing up to these projects – even at the risk of being labeled terrorists or saboteurs. Ramirez vs. Copper Mesa will reinforce the idea that direct, physical resistance is the only way to prevent community members from being murdered, indigenous cultures from being annihilated, and the environment from being decimated. This, at a time when special laws are being enacted in countries rich in natural resources, such as Ecuador, to judicially categorize acts of civil disobedience as terrorism. As of today, there are nearly 300 activists in Ecuador facing terrorism and sabotage charges for standing up to mining and other extractive activities that threaten the livelihood, or well-being of communities and the environment. Over half of these targeted activists are indigenous, including the leaders of the most important indigenous groups in the country. Ironically enough, this happens in the context of Ecuador’s progressive Constitution, which recognizes that nature has rights, and that Ecuadorians have the right to a good life (Sumak Kawsay). Take away the only effective tool that communities and indigenous people have to protect these rights from transnational corporations and you have the making of a major, and sustained, human rights nightmare supported by the State.
This is why the court decision in Canada matters, not just in Ecuador, but throughout the world.
Ethical mining bill defeated after fierce lobbying October 28, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Foreign Policy, Human Rights.
Tags: Canada, canada government, canada parliament, canadian mining, ethcical mining, house of commons, human rights, ignatieff, john mckay, mining, mining industry, roger hollander
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Ottawa— From Thursday’s Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010 7:22PM EDT
Last updated Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010 12:09PM EDT
The House of Commons has defeated Liberal legislation aimed at encouraging Canadian mining firms to act ethically abroad after a fierce lobbying battle that pitted the industry against its international and domestic critics.
Human rights and environmental advocates had argued that the bill would help prevent corporate abuses abroad and recounted accusations of rape, corruption and violence against the industry during parliamentary hearings.
More related to this story
Mining firms called the allegations disturbing lies and “hogwash” when they presented their case against the bill. Industry officials said ethical guidelines are already in place and warned the measures would cost jobs and give their critics a forum for frivolous accusations.
The Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act, a private member’s bill, was defeated 140-134 on Wednesday evening because not enough opposition MPs showed up to support it.
The bill was put forward by Liberal MP John McKay in response to persistent stories about conflict between Canadian mining companies abroad and local populations. Even though it was sponsored by a Liberal, 13 of Mr. McKay’s colleagues did not attend the vote. Four NDP MPs, primarily from mining-dependent ridings, were also absent.
The federal registry of lobbyists shows dozens of meetings took place over the past year as the Mining Association of Canada and individual mining firms knocked on doors of cabinet ministers, public servants and opposition MPs to express concern over the bill.
It was a large amount of lobbying for a bill from a backbench opposition MP.
“The lobbying from industry has been massive,” said Mr. McKay, the Scarborough-Guildwood MP. “The amount of money they have been spending on killing this bill is extraordinary.”
The legislation would have forced the government to create guidelines on corporate accountability standards for Canadian mining, oil or gas activities based on human rights, social, health and safety and environmental standards.
It would have also set up a system in which any individual could file a complaint with the Canadian government, which could dismiss it if it found it to be frivolous, or investigate and publish a written report. Mining companies had argued that the complaint process could tie up investment and time unnecessarily. Mr. McKay said he was disappointed by the vote and does not expect the issue will be dealt with again in the current Parliament. The mining and prospectors industry praised the result and stressed that it already has strong rules for the overseas operations of Canadian-based mining companies.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who had said earlier in the day that the bill had problems, was among the 13 Liberals not in the House for the vote. Canadian investment in mining and energy abroad is worth about $80-billion a year and more than 75 per cent of the world’s exploration and mining companies are headquartered in Canada.
Yet powerful forces also lined up to support the legislation.
Six hours before Wednesday’s vote, Mr. McKay e-mailed all MPs in the Commons with a letter of support from U.S. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, who said the bill is similar to new measures included in the Wall Street Financial Reform package approved this year by Congress.
Taking stock of Canada’s mining industry: Landmark lawsuit against the Toronto Stock Exchange could strip Canadian mining companies of impunity May 11, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America, Canada, Ecuador, Environment, Energy.
Tags: Ecuador, Canada, roger hollander, Latin America, human rights, mining, ecuador environment, ascendant copper, ecuador mining, environment, jennifer moore, copper mining, intag, canada mining, canada justice, open-pit mining, copper mesa, toronto stock exchange, marcia ramirez
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By Jennifer Moore
Marcia Ramírez hopes to set a precedent in Canadian courts that will benefit peasant farmers and indigenous peoples across the Global South.
A community leader in her mid-20s, Ramírez is one of three Ecuadorian plaintiffs suing the Toronto Stock Exchange for over $1.5 billion. The lawsuit alleges that violence in their rural community could have been avoided had the TSX not listed the Copper Mesa Mining Corporation (formerly Ascendant Copper), which is also named in the lawsuit. The TSX Group and TSX Inc. are accused of causing or materially contributing to alleged violence committed by the company in response to local opposition to an open-pit copper mine. An environmental impact study had indicated that the mine would displace several communities and jeopardize the health of forests and rivers in the northwestern valley of Intag. The defendants have vigorously denied the allegations.
“I ask the noble people of Canada,” Ramírez stated in her comments when the civil suit was filed in March 2009, “that you demand from your elected authorities significant changes in your national legislation so that what has happened with Copper Mesa in Intag will never happen again, not in Intag nor in any other part of the world.”
The TSX is a principal source of global mining financing today and specializes in services for junior mining companies like Copper Mesa. According to the Mining Association of Canada, 55 per cent of the world’s publicly traded mining companies were listed on the TSX at the end of 2008, far more than any other stock exchange. Canadian stock exchanges also provided 31 per cent of the world’s mining equity and handled 81 per cent of financing transactions for the global mining industry between 2004 and 2009.
In Latin America, a prime target for Canadian mining investments, Canadian-listed companies operate roughly 1,400 projects and have been the focal point of widespread protests and human rights abuses throughout the region. Just in the past year, anti-mining activists have been reported killed in Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala in presumed relation to Canadian projects. In Argentina and Honduras, Canadian operations have led to complaints of water scarcity, contamination and illness. In Peru, a Canadian mining operation has provoked opposition among northern Amazonian peoples who question why a national park intended to protect their territory was reduced by half, giving miners access to pristine forests in headwaters of great importance to them. Alleged human rights violations and abuses by such companies are seldom investigated and almost never brought to justice.
As a result, Canadian mining companies have developed a reputation for human rights violations and environmental devastation that even the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racism has complained about. Members of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability were also dismayed when the government released a belated response to a series of public recommendations on the Canadian overseas extractive industry in March 2009 that only reaffirmed its commitment to the status quo: voluntary Corporate Social Responsibility guidelines. The government’s position “falls far short of international human rights norms,” said Amnesty International. KAIROS, a faith-based organization advocating for human rights, ecological and ecumenical justice, complained that Canada leaves “mining-affected communities with no recourse.” MiningWatch added that the government’s complaint mechanism “undermines the principle of independent fact-finding.” One survey of Canadian mining companies has also demonstrated that adherence to international standards by our overseas extractive industry is “inordinately” low, especially among junior mining companies.
In other words, voluntary principles are not enough.
Intag, Ecuador, says no
The Ecuadorian community of Intag has a long history of opposition to large-scale copper mining, beginning with the expulsion of a Japanese mining company in the 1990s. In 1997, Bishi Metals left the area when locals balked after obtaining a copy of its environmental impact assessment, which detailed how its projected open-pit mine would cause deforestation, dry up rivers and displace at least four local communities.
Following this victory, Intag continued organizing, aware that although Bishi was gone, the copper remained. Various initiatives were undertaken to demonstrate that Intag could live without mining, including a local conservation organization, an ecotourism project, a women’s committee, a committee of all the rural parishes in the valley, a coffee co-operative, a community newspaper, a local radio station and a community development association.
By the time Copper Mesa acquired mineral rights in Intag in 2004, it was local organizations rather than the technical challenges of working in the remote area that would prove to be its greatest obstacle. As a result of the strong collective response, the company never managed to get a drill in the ground.
According to Polivio Pérez, president of the Community Development Council for the rural parish in which Copper Mesa’s project is situated, “the company came in trying to buy support and divide the communities” in an effort to weaken local resistance. When it could not gain enough support, he continues, “they tried to enter by force.”
Prior to listing the company in 2005, the TSX was warned that violence and human rights abuses could result from facilitating access to capital. Human rights abuses had already been documented by the well-respected Ecumenical Human Rights Commission in Quito (CEDHU), including physical mistreatment, death threats, persecution, slander, false charges against community leaders and intimidation. Such concerns motivated the county mayor to write a letter to the finance and audit committee of the TSX urging them not to list the company. The company’s own prospectus, which the stock exchange requires of companies before they are listed, also indicated “the potential of further escalating violence” given existing problems with its community relations in Intag.
It was no surprise, then, that things heated up once the company was listed and started raising funds.
The worst incident, both Ramírez and Pérez agree, occurred in December 2006 when heavily armed security guards were hired to reach the company’s mineral claims and set up camp.
Villagers blocked the only access road to the potential mining site with a single-link chain and stood guard. A sign posted on a nearby tree read: “Mining companies are prohibited here. We don’t sell our land, we defend it.”
The residents, including men, women and children, refused to let the private security agents pass. But the guards were impervious to their arguments and began to fire their weapons and to spray Ramírez and others at close range with tear gas. Israel Pérez, the third plaintiff in the case and Polivio’s brother, was shot and injured in the leg.
In response, local residents successfully carried out a peaceful citizen’s arrest and the guards were held in a local church for several days until local authorities arrived. “Despite being assaulted with tear gas and bullets,” says Polivio Pérez, “we were able to demonstrate once again the strength of our local organization and our decisiveness [against mining] here.”
The incident was captured on film by two German journalism students and is featured in Malcolm Rogge’s 2008 film Under Rich Earth. Ultimately, government authorities suspended the project and declared that they were unable to process the company’s environmental impact assessment.
Months later, after company directors had been personally informed about the December events and persisting tensions, individuals believed to be linked to the company assaulted and uttered death threats against Polivio Pérez. The statement of claim for the lawsuit alleges that the directors could have done more to avoid further confrontations, such as actually signing and implementing the “Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights” that the company publicly purported to respect.
Challenging Canada’s “judicial paradise”
The Toronto-based Klippenstein legal firm, best known for its defence of the Dudley George family against the province of Ontario, is representing the Ecuadorian villagers in their suit against the TSX and Copper Mesa. Their lawsuit, Murray Klippenstein says, seeks “the same level of corporate accountability that is expected in all other areas of Canadian life.” He anticipates a tough battle.
In 1997, the last time a mining company was sued in Canada, the plaintiffs were told to go elsewhere. Twenty-three thousand Guyanese villagers filed a class-action lawsuit against Cambior after the collapse of its tailings dam at the Omai Mine, which polluted their water supply. But the Quebec Superior Court ruled that it was not the best jurisdiction for the case. When the suit was later filed in Guyana, it was dismissed and the plaintiffs were ordered to pay the defendant’s legal costs.
In order to address jurisdictional issues, explains Klippenstein, the Intag lawsuit focuses on decisions that stock exchange and company executives made in Ontario, “rather than on the finger that pulled the trigger in Ecuador.”
This aspect of the legal strategy appears to be working. The Toronto lawyer says that the TSX and Copper Mesa have decided not to challenge the Ontario court jurisdiction. This puts them one step ahead and potentially trims years off the time they might have spent in legal battles before going to trial.
However, it is not just the reticence of Canadian courts to deal with cases of abuse beyond our own borders that this case aims to confront, but also the skittishness of an entire industry to subject itself to legal oversight.
Given the weak reporting requirements for listing on the TSX and the lack of relevant legislation in Canada, author Alain Deneault calls Canada a “judicial paradise” for our overseas mining industry. “Listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange,” writes Deneault, who co-authored an exposé of Canadian mining abuses in Africa entitled Noir Canada, “is a way of seeking shelter in one of the more permissive stock exchanges in the world, while taking advantage of the reputation of the rule of law in Canada – all the while knowing that one is outside of state control and regulation when operating overseas.”
The Toronto Stock Exchange openly markets itself to companies hoping to work in areas with weak governmental institutions and vulnerability to conflict and violence. Its own online promotional materials give the example of the Democratic Republic of Congo as one potential site for which it can help companies raise financing.
In other words, the Intag lawsuit is just the tip of the iceberg. Just as Klippenstein’s legal team will argue that members of Copper Mesa’s board of directors and the TSX had significant prior indications that further violence and human rights abuses could result from listing Copper Mesa Mining, it is highly possible that a plethora of other such cases exist for which this lawsuit could set an important precedent. Coincidentally, the same year that Copper Mesa was listed, La Presse reported that another junior mining company was allegedly implicated in the massacre of about 100 Congolese civilians.
MiningWatch Canada is a coalition of 18 faith, social justice, indigenous and union organizations. Communications and Outreach Coordinator Jamie Kneen told Briarpatch that if the lawsuit succeeds it could really “open the door” for other communities that have been harmed as a result of Canadian mining operations. From the Congo to Papua New Guinea to Guatemala, people who have faced illegal land appropriations, forced relocation, water contamination, threats or even murder could sue.
The lack of suitable mechanisms for addressing such disputes in Canada has also drawn the attention of parliamentarians and legal experts. Recently, Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie, speaking at the 2008 Canadian Bar Association conference, urged Canada to draw up new legislation that would provide a forum for foreign citizens and companies to have such cases heard. In the spring of 2009, two Members of Parliament initiated attempts at legislative reform by tabling private member’s bills. NDP MP Peter Julian’s Bill C-354 aimed to replicate the U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows foreign citizens to fight global human rights violations in U.S. courts, while Liberal MP John McKay’s Bill C-300 would make public financing for the extractive industry subject to government oversight. Up against a fierce industry lobby and government opposition, both bills were stalled when Parliament was prorogued.
“It’s not fair,” says Ramírez, “that a foreign company comes onto our land and violates our rights, when all we want is to live in a clean environment and to defend our water and our land.” She hopes, after the procedural battles are over, for a cathartic day in court when “the stock exchange will listen and understand that we’ve been hurt by a company of theirs.”
Ramírez, the other plaintiffs and the legal team will face a tough fight. But the underlying principle of their case is straightforward, says Klippenstein: “You shouldn’t harm somebody and you shouldn’t use your money to hire someone whom you know is likely to do harm” – a golden rule that Canadians would likely agree to in any other circumstances.
However, only time will tell whether Canadian courts are prepared to hear Ramírez’s voice and those of many others calling for a 180-degree turnaround in a sector rife with human rights and environmental abuses.
The Two Sides of Rafael Correa’s Government January 14, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Environment, Latin America.
Tags: alianza pais, CONAIE, Cuba, Cuban Revolution, Daniel Denvir, Ecuador, ecuador constitution, ecuador mining, environment, environmental law, indigenous rights, kichwa, Latin America, mining, monica chuji, quito, Rafael Correa, roger hollander
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“From the Equator, from this territory that harbored the Bolivarian struggles, we have come to the Ciudad Libertad to express our jubilation at these past fifty years. And we do so with the same conviction that led us to establish, in our own land, one of the most advanced constitutions in Latin America.
“We have come from this continent reinforced and revived by the social memory that is permitting us to settle the scores of history.
“This settling of scores begins with the genuine vindication of the indigenous population, pillaged, exploited, humiliated, offended and, paradoxically, also used and manipulated. For that reason, today, the Ecuadorian state is pluri-national, it is intercultural, and pursues equality in its diversity; in other words, the most authentic execution of true democracy…In the same way, with the African-Ecuadorian people which, like the Cuban people, are the drum and the flag of our homeland.”
Excerpt from speech by His Excellency Mr. Rafael Correa Delgado, president of the Republic of Ecuador, at the commemoration event for the 50th anniversary of the entry of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro into Havana, at Ciudad Libertad, January 8
Indigenous anti-mining protests hit Ecuador January 7, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Environment, Latin America.
Tags: alianza pais, CONAIE, Daniel Denvir, Ecuador, ecuador constitution, ecuador mining, environment, environmental law, indigenous rights, kichwa, mining, monica chuji, quito, Rafael Correa, roger hollander
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|Daniel Denvir www.upsidedownworld.org|
|Wednesday, 07 January 2009|
| Source: Indian Country Today
On Dec. 21, more than a thousand indigenous and campesino activists marched to the Ecuadorian National Assembly in opposition to President Rafael Correa’s proposed mining law. In the Southern Province of Azuay, campesinos blocked a number of highways, resisting police efforts to dislodge them. Protesters said that large-scale mining would damage Ecuador’s environment and pollute rural communities’ water.
The Mining Law, currently under debate in the provisional National Assembly, or Congresillo, would replace the Mining Mandate passed in May of this year. The Mandate froze mining operations and revoked a number of concessions to foreign corporations. The law would create a National Mining Company and increase state control over foreign corporations, which are largely Canadian. But the law would also allow mining to take place anywhere, including in protected areas and sharply limit community input.
In Quito, buses arrived from throughout the country to protest the mining law. Marching to the National Assembly, protesters clashed with police, who used pepper spray to push back activists intent on meeting with legislators. A small delegation was allowed to enter in the afternoon. The protests were organized by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and the Coordinator for the Unity of the Left and for Life, a new organization dedicated to regrouping social movements to confront Correa.
The march is possibly a prelude to a nation-wide uprising. While the protest was not large by Ecuadorian standards, representatives from many communities were present. Earlier this month, more than 30 organizations gathered in the Amazonian city of Coca and agreed to oppose Correa’s business friendly policies. Former Correa spokesperson and Assembly Member Monica Chuji said, “Today is a first step in a broader process of unifying social movements. Today we don’t have quantity, but we have unity.” Chuji, an Amazonian Kichwa, broke with Correa’s Alianza País Party in September, accusing the president of opposing indigenous rights.
Correa insists that responsible mining is necessary for Ecuador’s development. In November, Correa accused the indigenous movement of “losing their compass and playing into the hands of sectors that they have historically criticized, such as the Right, which the current administration is combating.” Correa has threatened to send the Mining Law to a national referendum if the indigenous movement alters it or blocks its approval, accusing the CONAIE of being anti-democratic.
But Dr. Byron Real López, an expert in environmental law, wrote in a recent report that the Mandate “is concerned with solving important issues. … such as the corruption surrounding the indiscriminate granting of concessions. But the proposed law ignores the ecological and social conflicts that mining activity causes. … and thus would tend to aggravate them.” López argues that the proposed law would violate a number of provisions in the new constitution, such as those protecting the rights of nature and indigenous communities.
Juan Francisco, a young Kichwa, traveled from the Southern province of Cañar. “We will never let them into our territory, which provides our water. Responsible mining is a miserable lie that the government wants to sell to us.” Juan Francisco said that the government should instead support sustainable and organic farming.
Despite Correa’s dismissive comments, it appears that the government is taking the movement seriously. Two days after the protests Ecuador’s interim legislature, the Congresillo, announced that they were considering extending discussion on the law by seven days – potentially pushing back a vote until Jan. 12. On Dec. 26, Congresillo President Francisco Cordero began a series of meetings with social movement leaders opposed to the project. The stated objective is to incorporate critics’ perspectives before the proposal undergoes a second debate, the last step before a vote.
But the CONAIE demands that the law be shelved so that a national debate on mining can take place. And protesters were adamant in their opposition to large-scale mining.
Carmen, a Saraguro Kichwa woman from the Southern province of Loja, said, “We oppose the Mining Law because we love nature. Mining will kill us, it will poison the water with chemicals. We all drink this water and we all will die. Water doesn’t belong to anyone. It belongs to us all.”
Campesino Jorge Marin traveled hours by bus from the Southern Amazonian province of Morona Santiago. “We’re here to stop the Mining Law, a law that will make it impossible for us to be owners of our land. We are here to defend nature and let the Congress know that we depend on the Amazon for life.”
Leaders of the CONAIE were scheduled to meet in a special assembly the first week of January to discuss a possible national uprising.
Salvador Quishpe, a Kichwa leader from the Southern Amazonian province of Zamora Chinchipe, told the crowd that mass mobilization would be necessary to stop the Mining Law. “If we have to celebrate Christmas in the streets to stop this law, we will!” Quishpe said that while it was impossible to bring thousands of people from Zamora Chinchipe to Quito, 1,500 delegates met in his province earlier this month and declared their support for nation-wide mass mobilizations
Danger Ahead: Correa Gives Mining the Green Light in Ecuador November 14, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Latin America.
Tags: Alberto Acosta, amazonian basin, ascendant copper, Canadian mining Ecuador, CONAIE, Copper Mesa Mining, corriente resources, Ecuador, ecuador environment, ecuador indigenous protest, IAMGOLD, martha roldos, mining, monica chuji, Rafael Correa, responsible mining, roger hollander
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|Written by Jennifer Moore|
|Thursday, 13 November 2008|
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, a left-of-centre economist, has been celebrating a major victory since the new Ecuadorian constitution passed with 64% approval on Sept. 28. It expands access to social services for Ecuadorians and grants them the right to water, as well as highly lauded rights for nature.
There is a “danger,” however, to the realization of his political project says Correa, and it is neither the old oligarchy nor transnational corporations that continue to have a strong influence. Speaking during a recent national radio address he said that the real threat lies among the “infantile” and “fundamentalist” environmental, indigenous and leftist groups who are staunchly opposed to metal mining.
“It’s absurd to be seated on hundreds of billions of dollars and for romantic notions, novelty, fixations or whatever, to say no to mining. Yes to mining, but to environmentally, socially and economically responsible mining,” said Correa.
The OPEC member nation has relied on oil exports for around 40 years that pay for roughly 40% of its national budget. But as oil reserves dry up, deposits of gold and copper are promoted as the future source of state revenue. No large scale project has yet reached production.
The President has announced that he will deliver a new mining law to the interim legislative commission this week. He states that if the commission makes any substantial changes that he will veto the project and bring it to a national referendum.
But despite pointed attacks from the President and promises to clamp down on protests, rural and environmentalist coalition groups joined by national and regional indigenous organizations are demanding that the law be shelved and that a mining mandate passed by the National Constituent Assembly in April be fully applied.
The real danger they say is in continued dependence upon extractive industry, adding that introduction of large-scale metal mining will impinge upon territorial rights, cultural survival, food sovereignty and the right to water.
On Monday, about 200 activists from around the country including executive members of the influential Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) participated in a festive march to the Canadian Embassy in Quito.
Activists celebrated the impact that the economic crisis is having on investments. Canadian financed mining companies dominate over 90% investment in the nascent sector and Canadian stock exchanges have fallen from 40 to 50% since June.
“We are mobilized to impede this activity from taking place in our territories and on our lands,” said environmentalist José Cueva from the northwestern area of Intag. A letter delivered to Embassy representatives states that Canadian miners are “unwelcome.” Further actions are anticipated during coming days and weeks.
Since the National Constituent Assembly passed a mining mandate on April 18, national attention has shifted away from industry financed campaigns to state led promotion of the mining industry. Spearheaded by Correa, he has called concerns about possible contamination as a result of mining “myths” or “absurd fundamentalism” and has captured public opinion by conditioning the future of social programs on state income from mineral exports.
“The conflict is no longer with the companies,” says Gloria Chicaiza from the Quito-based environmental organization Acción Ecológica. Popular interpretation has become that “those who oppose mining are now opposed to the President, and those who support the President are now in favor of mining.”
Tantamount to being lumped in with the country’s despised right wing, activists are additionally accused of being “well-fed urbanites” with narrow minded ideals and of being paid by international mining interests that do not want to see Ecuador become a major mining power.
Chicaiza says the President’s attacks “leave us not only de-legitimized, but also open to criminalization.” Most recently several activists, including well known leader Lina Solano of the National Coordinator in Defense of Life and Sovereignty, were accused of being a threat to national security for participation in protests against mining corporations and for demanding that the government apply the mining mandate.
In fact, since the mining mandate was approved public sympathy has turned toward miners considered by Correa to have the necessary technology to do the job right. Initially called “a historic decision” and “a victory” by assembly members and activists, six months later activists are calling the mandate a “deception.”
The mandate suspends all large scale mining activities until the new law is passed. It also orders most mineral concessions extinguished for reasons such as impacts on water, overlap with natural protected areas, as well as failure to carry out prior consultation with local communities and monopolization of more than three mineral concessions by any individual owner.
Correa has said the mandate was necessary to “put their house in order,” but the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum has not applied the above-mentioned criteria and the guidelines have not been extended to the draft law. As a result, companies such as Copper Mesa Mining (formerly Ascendant Copper), IAMGOLD and Corriente Resources maintain extensive concessions in biodiverse cloud forests, high altitude wetlands and at the headwaters of the Amazonian basin.
Furthermore, as Correa and government sponsored advertising took over from industry campaigns “[the companies] were portrayed as victims” observes Chicaiza, and the number of workers affected by the suspension was inflated, “generating national compassion.”
Now, clips of Correa threatening activists are regularly repeated on local radio stations raising fear amongst those concerned about mining and compounding insecurity created by mining interests in certain cases.
The Responsibility Myth
“Responsible mining; an irresponsible tale” read one banner carried through the streets to the Canadian Embassy in Quito on Monday. The high energy demonstration accompanied by drums, a marimba and a five piece marching band aimed to draw attention once again to Canadian interests and their involvement in Ecuadorian concerns.
Three community representatives were permitted to enter the Embassy to deliver their letter to Canadian government authorities who reportedly had to receive permission from Ottawa to hold the informal meeting. Inty Arcos, an environmentalist from the Province of Pichincha told an assistant to Ambassador Christian Lapointe, “You are deciding about our future without consulting us.”
The community delegate reported that Canadian officials said “it is not our fault, but rather that of your government and the policies that you adopt.” The official is said to have added “we can not say to your government that they make the laws to favor communities.”
“They will not [lobby on our behalf],” reflects Arcos, “but they can lobby for transnational corporations to enter communities without ever mentioning the blood, death and destruction to people and nature that this entails.”
Mining related conflicts in Ecuador have already resulted in several deaths as well as two armed confrontations reported to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights that implicate Copper Mesa Mining (formerly Ascendant Copper) and Ecuacorriente S.A. (one of two fully owned subsidiaries belonging to Vancouver-based Corriente Resources).
Whistleblower Esther Landetta, who has been fighting water contamination from small scale mining in the coastal province of Guayas, is also currently under state protection as a result of death threats from assassins known to be linked with mining interests.
But while communities continue to protest that they have never been fairly consulted over mega-mining developments, Correa has officially given representatives of Canadian-financed companies a privileged seat at discussions over the new law. Canadian Ambassador Lapointe has also played an important role facilitating their ongoing participation and several companies include former Ecuadorian government officials within their boards of directors.
Economic and democratic dangers
Correa, however, reassures the public: “We are clear that the main beneficiaries should be the communities located where projects are taking place,” he said during a recent national radio address emphasizing that state income from the reintroduction of mining royalties will contribute to local development projects. Royalties are proposed at a minimum of 5%.
However, based upon the current economic crisis, activists further argue that continued dependency on primary goods which are subject to wild fluctuations on international markets is dangerous.
Ecuador’s current economic vulnerability has recently been in evidence. The Washington Post reported this month that it is one of the hardest hit in Latin America by the economic crisis as a result of dependence on oil exports as well as agricultural products such as bananas, flowers and shrimp.
But the draft law prioritizes mining activities over other land uses by declaring them a public utility and opening the door for land expropriations. Furthermore, absence of mechanisms to substantially limit or prohibit mining in protected areas, headwaters, and populated areas leads lawyers and activists to call the law “a continuation” of past development perspectives shaped by agencies such as the World Bank.
One of the few interim legislative commission members outspoken about mining, Martha Roldós, challenges the President for calling them a threat to his project.
She says that they would support him should he be working toward a social development model based upon solidarity. She also laments that Correa finds it “so uncomfortable” that they would “defend the constitution which has been approved by vote and to demand that the mining mandate be applied, also passed by vote.”
Roldós, from the Ethics and Democracy Network political party (RED), rejects threats against environmental and human rights defenders and says “It should be the authorities that have not implemented the mining mandate that should be penalized…as well as those who are pursuing [activists] with death threats.”
Noting a certain “docility” within the current law making body, she says the shortage of critical voices, such as past President of the National Constituent Assembly Alberto Acosta and former Secretary of Communications and past Assembly member Mónica Chuji, does not bode well for strong debate over the upcoming mining law. “There needs to be people protesting outside.”
However, she also admits the difficulty of this within the current context in which Correa “has managed to demobilize the country with his discourse.”
Local development also at stake
Sharing the hope that growing alliances between environmentalist, rural and indigenous organizations will be able to inject new life into Ecuador’s mining debate, Gloria Chicaiza concludes, “The President thinks that this will contribute to local development.”
“But in the end he is going to jeopardize what he purports to favor,” she says. “It will destroy local developments because this entails imposing a model over others that already exist – some that have functioned and some that have problems – but mining is not the solution. We have the opportunity to rethink this model and declare Ecuador free of mining to be able to build a series of alternatives that can help us not to be so dependent.”
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, a left-of-centre economist, has been celebrating a major victory since the new Ecuadorian constitution passed with 64% approval on Sept. 28. It expands access to social services for Ecuadorians and grants them the right to water, as well as highly lauded rights for nature.