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UPDATE: Correa criticizes anti-mining activists in Ecuador

ANDINA reports, “Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, proposed (on November 23) that his country, together with Peru and Colombia, address the problem of anti-mining activists who provoke violence while acting under the false pretext of defending the environment.” He says that there are protests against ‘clean mining’ projects that he claims do not harm water supplies or the environment. At the same time, after the VI Binatioanl Cabinet Meeting of Peru and Ecuador, “The president apologized to Peru for the contamination of the Ecuadorian River Calera and River Amarillo as a result of ‘bad mining practices’, which subsequently led to the contamination of the Peruvian Puyango-Tumbes River. He indicated that these rivers would be cleaned and heavy metals removed.”

Mining is set to expand in Ecuador. In December 2011, the Globe and Mail reported, “Toronto-based Kinross plans to develop Ecuador’s largest gold mine, Fruta del Norte, while Ecuacorriente – an affiliate of Richmond, B.C.-based Corriente Resources, which is Chinese-owned – will work on the Mirador copper mine. …Ecuador is (also) set to start negotiations for contracts with Arizona-based International Minerals over its Rio Blanco gold-silver project; with Ecuacorriente over its Panantza-San Carlos copper deposit; and with Toronto-based Iamgold, which plans to develop the Quimsacocha gold-copper-silver mine.”

Serious and substantive allegations have been raised about the conduct of mining companies in Ecuador. In November 2009, the Toronto Star reported, “Canadian mining companies are facing allegations of abuse and assault on local citizens in dozens of developing nations. From Ecuador comes a lawsuit, filed in Ontario, alleging that in 2006 a Canadian company’s armed security forces attacked unarmed locals with pepper spray first, then fired guns to dampen protest near a proposed mining site.” The Tyee added then, “Three villagers from the valley of Intag in northwestern Ecuador are suing Copper Mesa Mining Corporation and the Toronto Stock Exchange. They allege that company directors and the TMX Group have not done enough to reduce the risk of harm being faced by farmers and community leaders in Intag who have faced violent threats and attacks for opposition to a large open-pit copper mine in their pristine cloud forests.”

Silvia Quilumbango, the president of the Ecuadoran environmental group DECOIN (Defensa y Conservacion Ecologica de Intag) highlighted these problems when she spoke at the closing plenary of our ‘Shout Out Against Mining Injustice’ this past June in Vancouver.

It is also worth noting that in mid-November, Reuters reported, “Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa launched his re-election bid on (November 10) for a February vote… Victory in the February 17 vote would give the socialist Correa a mandate for rolling out more reforms to increase state revenues from the oil and mining sectors. …Correa chose strategic sectors minister Jorge Glas as his (vice-presidential) running mate… A survey by pollster Cedatos shows Correa winning 55 percent of votes, 32 percentage points more than his closest rival, Guillermo Lasso, a banker from the coastal city Guayaquil. Lasso, who is running on a platform of lower taxes and incentives to private investors to boost job creation, will have difficulty in denting Correa’s support among the poor. …Other candidates are former president Lucio Gutierrez; Alberto Acosta, a former Correa ally; and Alvaro Noboa, a banana magnate who will run for the presidency for the fifth time.”

A coordinated response from Canadian organizations expressing concern about Correa’s comments will be released shortly.