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By Javier Rodríguez Pardo
In Intag, by expelling the mercenaries of the transnational Ascendant Copper, its inhabitants also defended their regional economies, the export of organic coffee that they place in eastern markets with significant added value, and many other crops that they use for their daily subsistence.
Ecuador is a thick green blanket over an imposing basin of water and its biodiversity a great enigma. It is difficult to imagine fifty transnational mining companies demolishing mountains, jungle and mountain ranges, exchanging pristine water for cyanide or sulfuric solutions, devastating millennia in a matter of minutes and, at the same time, justifying progress and development. Ecuadorians are not conceived that allow volumes of heavy metals to rise in tiny particles that will then have to fall on fauna, flora and ethnic groups, in daily blasts that only seek gold, oil and any other critical and strategic mineral removed by explosions and destructive metal caterpillars. . Arsenic will impact on the aquifers, but also the chemical reagents with which they irrigate the minerals. To raze is the mining verb and to loot is the infinitive learned by the new crusaders from the north who arrived with renewed coffers of multicolored gifts to steal the last common goods left on the planet: low-grade metals.
It has been calculated with conservation criteria that each tree that is around fifty years old produces more than thirty thousand dollars in oxygen, thirty-seven thousand from recycling of water and one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars for erosion control, fertilization, air purification and shelter of fauna. At the same time, it bothers us to think that it can be counted in economic figures that the almost two hundred thousand dollars, value of each tree according to the figures shown, do not include the cost of wood, nor the beauty, nor the global eco-systemic impact, since each tree represents less than one percent of the biological diversity of the native forest, still ignoring millions of species that live in it. Meanwhile, mining explosions are shaking Latin America with a voracious rapture: this is also the case in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and in the southern towns that contain 75% of the planet's biological diversity. One hundred and eighty-two species of "native domestic plants are grown in Peru, with hundreds and even thousands of varieties, of which one hundred and seventy-four are of Andean, Amazon and coastal origin" and we could say the same of any other South American country, like Ecuador.
In Intag, by expelling the mercenaries of the transnational Ascendant Copper, its inhabitants also defended their regional economies, the export of organic coffee that they place in eastern markets with significant added value, and many other crops that they use for their daily subsistence, in addition to community tourism in Junín, cabuya handicrafts, soap with natural herbal extracts and the solidarity eco-store Toisán that promotes the barter economy. Intag is a valley that has already become a legend for its heroic fight against mining devastation. It is located in the Toisán mountain range, west of the Cotacachi canton, cradle of the greatest biodiversity and water sources in the Imbabura province, but it also contains scattered deposits of gold, silver, copper, molybdenum that awakened the mining curse.
One fine day, waste and sewage began to descend towards the populations that immediately rose up despite opposition from the authorities who denied the damage, and on May 15, 1997, two hundred people from seven communities of Íntag destroyed the camp of the mining company that had no choice but to leave the area. It was the beginning, because very soon the Canadian company Ascendant Copper Corporation S.A. was to enter the scene. which in turn belongs to Ascendant Holdings based in the Turks and Caicos Islands of the Caribbean, tax havens of the extractive transnational mafia.
This company acquired the old mining concessions of Bishimetals in April 2004, without caring that Cotacachi, where Íntag is located, was declared an ecological canton in September 1997. Ascendant gathers the previous experience and sends mercenaries to the area, combined luck of workers miners and paramilitaries, who perpetrated attacks and physical mistreatment of residents, death threats and intimidation with firearms, persecution, slander, legal actions against leaders through false testimonies, invasion of farms, land trafficking and multiple human rights violations . There were dozens of clashes but the Ecuadorian people of Íntag never lowered their arms and decisively prevented the company from entering the exploitation area, which was forced to buy the land at prices up to twenty times higher, causing divisions in the population and in the regional economy. Most of the hectares acquired were illegal, exerting pressure and coercion. The people responded by setting fire to the Ascendant camp and the clashes escalated with the intervention of government officials, legal action from both sides. At that time, the town of Intag had the mayor of Cotacachi and the presidents of the parish councils who demonstrated before the Ministry of Energy and Mines of Ecuador in front of some eight hundred residents, where community members ended up triumphing but, as happens in the rest of Latin America is just a chapter of similar battles. For this reason, before the appearance of other mining companies, the Íntag communities created a community radio and newspaper that keep the various parishes in the area informed, disseminating the social and environmental impacts of this mining. The villagers also created DECOIN, Defense for the Conservation of Íntag, a grassroots environmental organization that works to protect the environment and common goods of the region and that promotes, according to its statutes, sustainable development. It was through this and other human rights organizations, both local and Canadian, that they were able to report Ascendant Copper to the investment sector on the Toronto Stock Exchange in Canada, causing a sharp depreciation of their capital.
But of course, another transnational mining giant immediately appeared to their aid, Río Tinto Zinc., From whom the people of Íntag await new attacks. This mining policy, the social impact it produces and the legislation that protects it, will be denounced in the Constituent Assembly of Montecristi, in a document prepared in Ibarra - which we witnessed in mid-November - with the aim of restoring the Ecuadorian people all your rights and the ability to freely choose the future you want. I relate the strength of the Ecuadorian people to some of our assemblies: I do not believe that this mining will be able to penetrate the people that "discovered" the Amazon.
* Javier Rodríguez Pardo
From Ibarra, northern Ecuador, November 2007.
Chubut Antinuclear Movement (MACH)
Patagonian Ecological Systems (SEPA)
National Network for Environmental Action (RENACE)
Union of Citizen Assemblies (UAC)