FIDH calls for the suspension of the first large-scale open-pit mining project in the Ecuadorian Amazon

On March 5, 2012, the Ecuadorian government signed a contract with the mining company Ecuacorriente (ECSA), thereby paving the way for large-scale mining in Ecuador. On March 22, indigenous community members, peasants, women, students and workers are expected to arrive in Quito, closing a two week march to denounce the development of large-scale mining in the country.

ECSA is a subsidiary of Corriente Resources, mining company domiciled in Canada and owned by Canadian capital between 1983 and 2010, and now a subsidiary of the joint venture China Railway Construction Corporation and Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group Co. Ltd (China’s second largest copper producer). The signature of the contract will allow ECSA to exploit copper in the Cordillera del Cóndor in the Ecuadorian Amazon for an investment estimated at over 1,7 billon US dollars. The main exploitation project, the Mirador Project, is located in the province of Zamora Chinchipe.

In 2010, FIDH and its member organisations in Ecuador (CEDHU, CDES and INREDH) denounced the impacts, including potential ones, of the project on the rights of local communities [1]. They denounced the actions of the State and the company aiming at intimidating members of affected communities opposed to the projects, including acts of violence committed by the security forces. Authors of the report also highlighted the lack of consultation of affected communities, in particular the Shuar indigenous communities, as well as the lack of adequate State control in the project approval processes, the related environmental risks and the potential consequences on local and indigenous communities.

FIDH and its member organisations in Ecuador call on the Ecuadorian authorities to suspend the implementation of the contract until a solution is reached and deemed satisfactory by the affected communities, in accordance with their right to free, prior and informed consultation as guaranteed by the Ecuadorian Constitution. They also urge the Ecuadorian government to refrain from taking any measures that could infringe on the freedom of expression of the protestors, particularly in a worrying context of criminalisation of the social protest.

On the eve of the Rio +20 Summit, FIDH and its member organisations recall that any economic development policy shall take into consideration the human being, particularly those most vulnerable, and be respectful of human rights and the environment.

FIDH, CEDHU, INREDH and CDES also call on the Chinese and Canadian governments to respect their obligation to protect human rights, including for violations committed by transnational corporations registered in their jurisdiction and who operate abroad. Chinese and Canadian authorities should require that the involved companies suspend their operations, including by exercising diplomatic relations.

For its part, EcuaCorriente has the responsibility to adopt all necessary measures to ensure its operations will not affect environment or local communities’ rights protected under the Ecuadorian Constitution.

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