Ecuador: trashing a cloud forest for copper?

Cloud forest and spectacled bear The spectacled bears of the cloud forest stand to lose their habitat. (© Wallpapers-hq.ru/bankoboev.ru)
105,839 supporters

End of campaign: Mar 5, 2015

Codelco, a company owned by the Chilean state, wants to mine for copper in Ecuador’s rainforest – bad news for nature, biodiversity and water resources. We can’t let this happen. Please lend your voice to our petition.

Call to action

To: The President of Chile Michelle Bachelet and her government

The fate of Ecuador’s cloud forest is in Chile’s hands. Call on the Chilean government to withdraw the state-owned mining company Codelco from the rainforest.

Read letter

Modern technology would be inconceivable without copper. It can be found in every power cable, appliance, mobile phone and car. The richest deposits of the metal can be found in South America: Chile mines 5.4 million tons of ore annually, making it the world’s largest copper producer by far, and Codelco – a company wholly owned by the Chilean state – is the world’s number one supplier.

Now the government of neighboring Ecuador is planning on exploiting a copper deposit northwest of its capital, Quinto, with Codelco’s assistance, sacrificing the unique cloud forests of the Intag in the process. 

The proposed location of the mine in the Ecuadorian Andes is the site of some of the world’s most biodiverse pristine forests – the habitat of jaguars, spectacled bears, Andean cocks-of-the-rock, black-headed spider monkeys and many other endangered species.

Accessing the deep copper deposits and accommodating huge dumps of toxic spoil will mean stripping the slopes of the Toisan Range, diverting rivers and demolishing several villages. If the Llurimagua mining project goes ahead, the cloud forests of the Intag region and their inhabitants will become collateral damage.

Naturally, the people of the Intag region are fighting the mining project tooth and nail. On two previous occasions, their protests led major foreign investors – the Japanese Mitsubishi subsidiary Bishimetals and Canada’s Ascendant Copper – to abandon the project.

The Ecuadorian government, however, is ignoring the affected communities and sending in security forces to intimidate and arrest activists. Environmentalists of the Intag region are now calling on the Chilean government to intervene and are asking for international support. 

Please add your voice to their appeal to the Chilean government to withdraw from the project in Ecuador.

Back­ground

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa wants his country to become a paradise for the mining industry and a major exporter of copper. His government pays lip service to “responsible mining” (see Ecuador: sigue el engaño de la minería responsable), offering Codelco’s copper mining operations in Chile’s Atacama Desert as a positive example. Yet the conditions in the arid and largely uninhabited Chilean desert cannot be compared to Ecuador’s lush, rainy Intag region. Mining there would mean destroying cloud forests, diverting rivers and demolishing villages. Heavy tropical rainfall would wash heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and arsenic from the spoil into rivers and contaminate them.

Numerous Ecuadorian communities are opposed to having their environment pillaged for commodities needed to fuel consumerism in rich countries. To push the projects through, the government is ignoring the protests of those affected.

Activists who speak out against mining are criminalized and arrested, as the case of Javier Ramirez Piedra has shown. The mayor of the town of Junín was arrested on April 10, 2014. Codelco, the Ecuadorian state mining company ENAMI and public prosecutors accuse him of sedition, sabotage and terrorism. Ramírez has been in custody awaiting trial for nearly four months, despite the obviously fabricated charges.

Rainforest Rescue and 140 other organizations are calling for his release. Please support the campaign of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) for the release of Javier Ramírez.

Letter

To: The President of Chile Michelle Bachelet and her government

Dear President Bachelet,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The state-owned mining companies of Chile and Ecuador, Codelco and ENAMI, are planning a joint copper mining project in Ecuador. If it goes ahead, the Llurimagua project would destroy forests and villages in the Intag region of Imbabura province, one of the world’s most biodiverse environments.

The communities of the Intag region have long opposed copper mining, and two transnational companies – the Japanese Mitsubishi Group (Bishimetals) and Canada’s Ascendant Copper – have abandoned the project due to the resistance of the local population.

ENAMI, however, is breaking Ecuadorian law by ignoring the objections of the communities. The Intag has become a zone of continuous conflict in which human rights violations are commonplace.

The case of the farmer Javier Ramírez Piedra is particularly troubling: On April 10, 2014, the family man and mayor of the village of Junín was arrested, apparently because he had spoken out against the mining project. Codelco, the Ecuadorian state mining company ENAMI and the public prosecutors accuse him of sedition, sabotage and terrorism, charges for which he could face an eight-year prison term. Ramírez has been in custody for nearly four months, despite the obviously fabricated allegations.

On May 8, ENAMI and Codelco earthmoving machinery and an escort of 200 police officers entered Junín to begin clearing the way to the mining concession located in the village’s protected, 1,300-hectare cloud forest. A police camp was set up across the street from the house of Javier Ramírez in the middle of the village, apparently to cow the community into submission.

On behalf of the inhabitants and environmental activists of the Intag region, I call on you as the highest representative of the Chilean government to:

- Respect the rights of the local communities and Ecuadorian law. Do not become an accessory to human rights violations in Intag and the destruction of one of the world’s most biodiverse environments.
- Withdraw Codelco from the Llurimagua mining project and the Intag region at once.
- Urge the Ecuadorian government to act on the numerous calls to release the farmer Javier Ramírez immediately.

I look forward to your reply and remain

Yours sincerely,