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Dear Friends and Companions,
In the name of all the communities northwestern Pichincha, we write to thank you for your help and support in broadcasting news of the attack on the Miranda brothers (August 12th) by paramilitary miners. We beg you to continue supporting the news broadcast of these illegal acts against country dwellers and that you help us in the legal battle to come. As some of you already know, the intellectual authors of this crime (owners of the mining concession and their renters) are free and cheerful, ready to send more killers to shoot at those of us who live in the countryside.
In our face, Ulbio Moncayo (title-holder of the Cholupe concession) was freed hours after having been arrested in possession of cartridges of dynamite, in plain sight and patience of the authorities, despite their knowing that two people were assaulted with  machine-gun shots. Mr. Ulbio Moncayo was not even investigated, and with the help of one Concejal Macas, was released by the attorney general of Pedro Vicente Maldonado.
Moreover, one of the suspects in the assault against the Miranda brothers, is Mrs. Darlinda Duran -the same who impudently lied and filed an accusation of kidnapping her against “an ecologist man” (she doesn’t have the decency to name names) which is a vile lie, and the attorney general of Pedro Vicente signed this accusation. Isn’t that crazy?!!!
        
The same day, Wednesday the 13th of August 2008, after the incident with Mr. Miner Ulbio Moncayo, some of us entered the Km 90 road towards the illegal mining operation, sited forcibly on the lands of the grandfather of the youths who had been attacked. We asked for the support of the police of Los Bancos, Pedro Vicente Maldonado, Nanegalito, and Nanegal, and nonetheless not one police officer was able to come with us into the site, where the paramilitaries were armed to the teeth and waiting for us to appear to turn us around. By luck, and thanks to a good deed by a good Samaritan, we contacted the Judicial Police in Quito (GIR), and they sent a special group in the night which, together with community members armed with their hunting shotguns, captured four heavily-armed criminals in possession of submachine guns, a Mauser rifle, drugs, cell phones and money in cash.
As we advanced in the night we could hear the crossfire of bullets on the mountain. We walked approximately 9 hours in the darkness through the mud, without stopping, until we met with our other companions who had entered through Pacto, together with the special police group. The arrested ones went walking amidst the indignant shouts of the relatives of the youths who had been shot at the day before, and transferred on shoulders along that same path to a hospital.
Companions, the struggle continues! On Tuesday (August 19th) we will be in Quito with the relatives of the Miranda brothers, making declarations to communications media, so that this does not go unpunished.  Once again, many thanks for your help and let’s continue the struggle in defense of our lives.
PS: We propose a meeting among all the organizations, in NW Pichincha or in Intag, with the purpose of tracing joint defense strategies.
Here are two addresses where you can see images of the conflict with the “paramilitary miners” who attacked us:
Companions, we need to support one another en masse to help the affected campesinos continue with the lawsuits. Remember that now it is our neighbors, tomorrow it will be us. Let’s help them out. We need a “kitty” to pay for lawyers to follow the legal processes to order the bullies away from us.
            
CODECONO

At the end of June, 2008, Avalanche Minerals, Ltd., changed its name to OroAndes Resource Corporation, and launched a new website with information on another mining project that they are pursuing in Colombia.  Their new web site is posted on the sidebar.

The following is a press bulletin sent to the media about the results of a meeting in Los Bancos on June 6, 2008

 

Press Release: SAN MIGUEL DE LOS BANCOS RESOLVES TO OPPOSE MINING IN THE REGION

 

Today, in the presence of the mayors of three municipalities of northwestern Pichincha province, it was declared that northwestern Pichincha will be a mining-free zone. During the event, a letter was read from a member of the Constitutional Assembly, Martha Roldos, who was not able to participate in the forum due to inescapable commitments in the Assembly. In it, she acknowledged the resolution by the municipal administration that prohibits mining in the municipality of San Miguel de Los Bancos, with the exception of mining for sand and rocks for cement.

 

The residents of Los Bancos were informed of the negative effects that mining activity would bring, particularly the irreversible contamination of water sources, the loss of local vegetation, and of the social conflicts that have arisen as a result of mining in the Choco Andino, one of the 5 most biodiverse zones on the planet, of which Northwestern Pichincha Province is a part. 
 The event wrapped up by securing the commitment of other mayors in the region to organize similar informative forums with their respective populations.

 

The anti-mining resolution was supported by members of environmental, social, and community organizations, and by the inhabitants of Los Bancos. The concern and astonishment of the residents, who worried that the exuberance of the zone could be transformed into a devastated territory, was widely noted.

 

Coordinator for the Defence and Conservation of Nothwestern Pichincha CODECONO

http://www.northernminer.com/issues/ISArticle.asp?id=85699&issue=06132008&ref=rss

Daily News Friday, June 13, 2008

Ecuador update: many questions, a few answers

Vancouver – On June 9th, fifty-two days after a mining mandate in
Ecuador suspended all mining activity while the government drafts new
mining legislation, the government began transferring the country’s
mining concessions to the state.
The move, entirely expected as part of the new law, has been one of
few clarities to surface about what the new law will mean for foreign
companies working in the small South American country. The mandate of
April 18th, supported by an overwhelming majority in the
constitutional assembly, cancelled 88% of all concessions, limited
companies’ holdings to a maximum of three concessions, and suspended
mining activity for 180 days. Since then, little else has been
disclosed.
Lawyer Raul de la Torre, partner in the leading Ecuadorian law firm
Perez, Bustamante & Ponce, has been following the situation from
within the country and in a recent article in LatinLawyer he outlined
what he’s managed to discern so far.
Torre writes that administrative charges will increase to US$100 per
mining hectare. It is unclear whether this refers to a one-time fee
or an annual charge. Either way it’s a considerable cost – Aurelian
Resources’ (ARU-T, AUREF-O) 95,152 mining hectares would cost the
company US$9.5 million per payment, for example. Dynasty Metals &
Mining (DMM-T, DMMIF-O) is in a similar position, holding 96,900
hectares that could cost US$9.7 million.
A second new piece of insight from Torre is that the new law will
include a 3% to 5% royalty. He describes the royalty as “payment to
the state for exploitation of mineral resources.” Whether the tax
would be a net smelter royalty or take another form is not clear.
Thirdly, Torres writes “any environmental damage from a mining
concession would be cited as cause for contract termination.” Since
mining damages the environment by its very nature, this clause could
give the government wide-ranging power to cancel mining rights and
thereby take back deposits.
In addition, the role of the state mining company being created under
the law is still a subject of great debate. Torres says the national
company will oversee development of any projects reserved for the
state. The question is which those projects will be.
One of the members of the national assembly who introduced the bill,
Betty Tola, said in the past that the new entity would hold the
concessions invalidated through the April mandate. That mandate
declared all mining concessions in which there had been no
exploration investment before the end of 2007 invalid. Similarly, any
concessions for which no environmental impact assessment had been
submitted by the end of 2007 were declared extinct as well as any
concessions within natural protected areas. Finally, any concessions
carrying unpaid fees were invalidated. There is to be no compensation
for cancelled concessions.
Concessions in those categories add up to 88% of the country’s issued
mining concessions. Until recently, however, the government had not
formerly seized invalidated claims. According to Torre, the process
of transferring invalid claims into the new national mining company
has now begun.
While that process sounds dire, in an April interview with Dow Jones
Newswires Ecuadorian Mines and Oil Minister Galo Chiriboga rejected
the notion of the new national mining company interfering with
projects currently held by foreign companies. He indicated that the
state-run company would focus on industrial mining, that is mining
matter for construction materials such as cement.
The three-concession limit remains another very significant point of
confusion. The mandate officially limited any one person or company
to holding only three mining concessions. Chiriboga has since
suggested that this limit could be raised.
The limit could disable many foreign companies from proceeding with
their projects. Dynasty was slated to take its Zaruma gold project
into production at the beginning of July; the 180-day mining
moratorium delayed that, of course, but the three-concession limit
could halt it permanently. Dynasty holds 125 concessions in Ecuador.
Along the same lines, Corriente Resources (CTQ-T, ETQ-X) holds some
two dozen concessions in the country, with its 25 billion lbs. of
copper resource spread out among them.
Aurelian’s Fruta del Norte deposit is, luckily, situated on a single
concession. That being said, the company holds 39 concessions in the
area so as to control the possible deposit extensions.
The questions are still far more plentiful than the answers but
Torre’s insight gives a window into the law under development. All
should become clear when the new law is published on June 27.

CINGE are the only active environmental impact consultants on file with the Ministry of Minas and Petroleos, and they have made progress insofar as they now have Ministry permission to actually take samples within the 11 concessions for which they have the Terms of Reference (TOR, for the study and the Project’s Management Plan) approved. The next step for these 11 -Avalanche’s South Project (E1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 19, 20 and 21) and West Central Project (E15, 16, and 18)- is for the Consultants to open an office in a strategic location to socialize the TOR with Citizen Participation.  The latter is the key; if they do not fulfill this requirement -of informing and consulting local residents- Avalanche cannot gain legal permission for preliminary exploration. So far, I have heard nothing about CINGE opening an office strategic to the North Central concessions -presumably this would be in Los Bancos, which is where they held their supposed Audiencias. For the South concessions, it will probably be Santo Domingo de los Colorados.  I have only just notified some people within that group over the past weekend. They had just begun organizing people who want to conserve their forests, which are pretty thin in that part of the country after so many years of unstinting cattle and agricultural exploitation, and so doubly important; they were completely unaware that they were threatened by the Avalanche Project and are just beginning to organize. I gave them a basic packet of information and the only DECOIN booklet I had in hand.  We should do some follow-up, though.  I will see what can be managed. The representative of the Environmental Protection Direction of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleo emphasized that it is the second Audiencia that is key. If the community is NOT consulted, there is cause to complain and enter into further dialog with the Ministry, which will hinder CINGE and Avalanche in getting on with their process. And we still need to get the information out to the people in the concessions, a major task.

 The laws may or may not change as a result of pressures being applied daily to the Asamblea Constituyente and the Presidente.

The National Assembly for the Environment (ANA) organized a march to Montecristi January 23-25, 2008, to present their Environmental Proposal to the Asamblea Constituyente Nacional (“Asamblea” – National Constitutional Assembly, Ecuador’s current de facto legislative branch of government). ANA is composed of a number of national and community organizations from all over the country, concerned with environmental, human rights, and quality-of-life issues. They have been working for the past six months to forge a coherent and inclusive legal Proposal regarding environmental regulation and protection, for the Asamblea to consider including as law in the new Constitution.

Orlando Andagoya and Luis Obando, President and Treasurer of Santa Rosa de Pacto’s community Council, were commissioned to join the ANA delegation and march to Montecristi in representation of the interests of their community, which is threatened by the “E Group concessions” mining project of Avalanche Minerals of Canada. The bus from Pacto reached Montecristi after an overnight journey just in time for breakfast, after which the 500 members of the ANA delegation attended a full day of meetings, a demonstration, and cultural events. The Environmental Proposal was formally presented the last day to the President of the Asamblea Constituyente, Alberto Acosta, who promised to study it thoroughly and spoke to the delegates. Then fifteen members of the group were given the opportunity to speak in five of the Work Tables of the Asamblea about the Environmental Proposal -which rejects both large and medium-scale mining throughout the country. They proposed socio-economic alternatives which emphasize protection of the natural environment as essential for healthy and sustainable long-term national development.

The march was deemed a success, with no negative impacts.  On the contrary, Asamblea members encouraged delegates to return to dialogue with them about the issues and participate in the process from which the new Constitution will arise. —DECONO

On December 15, 2007, members of the “Green Route” pre-Chamber of Commerce – persons and organizations dedicated to promoting ecological and sustainable tourism and associated businesses all along the highway which the Municipal Government in Quito itself has targeted and promoted for exactly such alternative economic development – met near Mindo to discuss issues relevant to their interests. This included the mining issue, to which the group expressed its full opposition and willingness to collaborate in efforts to repel mining interests. The central axis of Avalanche’s E Group concessions is along the very paved road from Quito to La Independencia that is the “Green Route,” and which has sprouted eco-lodges, community cheese factories and other sustainable cottage industries during recent years, with Quito actively promoting such alternatives.

 

ECSA is a mining venture that has been promoting itself relentlessly in the Ecuadorian media during the past month. I feared they might be AVALANCHE under an assumed identity (the company whose E Group concessions threaten the integrity of northwestern Ecuador also has holdings in the Cordillera del Condor), but no, friend Pat in Scotland disabused me by looking ECSA up on the internet. ECSA is not Avalanche, but it is a metals mining project, and can serve us as a peek into the future that could await us if we don’t join together to make truly viable alternatives, and stick to them. ECSA states they are an Ecuadorian company with nearly 8,000 hectareas in their 6 “Proyecto Mirador” concessions in southern Ecuador (Zamora-Chinchipe) in the Cordillera del Condor. Their plan is to put in a copper mine, stressing “environmental responsibility.” They say they must spend over $342 million dollars in mining infrastructure before they can move to exploitation. They do not mention any guarantee of financing to deal with the toxic waste generated from acid mine drainage, toxic heavy metals freed into air and water from unearthed rock, contamination by chemical agents used to separate and recover target minerals from ore, nor erosion and sedimentation as natural forces erode (contaminated) mine waste material and carry the sediments off the site where they can clog river beds, smother aquatic life and habitat, and kill vegetation.

 

ECSA’s website is: http://www.ecsa.com.ec/

(Note that sometimes this site does not load as it should, try it a couple times, and  if it still doesn’t work try typing http://www.ecsa.com.ec/

 

In other relevant news, our colleague Anita, monitoring Ecuador’s ASAMBLEA CONSTITUYENTE from California, sent this report on their Mesa de Trabajo (Work Table) #5, “NATURAL RESOURCES AND BIOIDIVERSITY.” These are the 13 people responsible for drafting national policy concerning the conservation and use of all Ecuador’s natural resources and unique biodiversity, which will be written into the country’s new (20th) Constitution. The Asamblea is currently also the de facto legislative branch of the National Government, and apparently subject to President Rafael Correa’s political and economic agenda. Mesa de Trabajo 5’s overall socioeconomic emphasis is a little alarming (people’s rights and uses over those of the environment and its natural resources and biodiversity upon which we all depend), but there may be some leeway in which to present alternatives, and there are two days of workshops planned to cover the issues of Biodiversity, Mines, Water, and City/Air in Imbabura and northern Pichincha. Ideally, to give people a chance to participate in their own governance.

 

The Asamblea’s website is http://asambleaconstituyente.gov.ec/

 

NEWSFLASH: Ascendant Copper Corp, a Canadian Company which was ordered to pull out of their Intag concessions due to their illegal and violent activities in that zone, met with members of Work Table 5 Natural Resources on January 10th, presumably to present their case for resuming mining activities in the area. Fortunately, Intag leaders learned of the scheduled meeting in time for their representative to reach Montecristi and present the communities’ case against the Junin mining project the same day.

 

DAILY SCHEDULE OF WORK TABLE ACTIVITIES AND A PLACE FOR COMMENTS ONLINE! (en español).

 

http://asambleaconstituyente.gov.ec/blogs/mesa_5/

 

And finally, teams of local forest network members are going out to inform and entertain affected communities in February. Stay tuned!!! m

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