Cotacachi approval of Codelco – Enami mining project sets the stage for widespread conflicts

The main issue on the agenda of the official Municipal session this past Wednesday the 13th, was a vote on whether to approve or deny a permit needed by the government mining company to continue with its plans to start exploratory activities in Intag’s Toisan range.

It was a total disgrace. Seeing the four councilpersons and the indigenous mayor of Cotacachi, Alberto Andrango, trying to justify the reasons why they were, essentially, giving the green light for Codelco and the Ecuadorian mining company, ENAMI, to begin mining activities in Intag. For those present, the decision reeked of political complicity, given that the five who approved the resolution were members of President Correa’s party, or close allies.

The consequences, given Intag’s long history of violent conflicts and human rights violations spawned by mining, and the area’s successful resistance, are not very difficult to imagine.

The appalling action will, I’m sure, come to haunt the Cotacachi Municipal government and undoubtedly, impact the feasibility of the proposed mining activities. The reasons are simple. The decision completely overlooked civil society concerns and clear legal and Constitutional issues that were so eloquently expressed in the session by the three opposing council members and one civil society representative with voting privileges. These issues were supported by the 15 leaders of Intag’s communities, organizations and Township governments who were present at the meeting (see photo below). The legal issues include, but are not limited to, the Constitutional right to prior consultation, which was flagrantly violated, as well as the right of Ecuador’s citizen to live in a culture of peace. The Constitutional right to Sumak Kawsay, or a good or harmonious life, also stands as a main obstacle for the project to overcome.

Economic and land development plans, both at the Township and Municipal government levels, were also outrageously violated. Nowhere do the plans contemplate mining as a driver of the economy. In fact, the Plans openly support tourism, sustainable agricultural and ranching as well as small scale business enterprises. The civil society members also pointed out that the mining concessions are within the Municipality’s own protected area. Mining would violate the protected area’s mandate. Additionally, mining activities would be in clear violation of the Ecological Ordinance, approved by the Cotacachi Municipal government in the year 2000. Until the Constitutional Tribunal rules otherwise, the Ordinance is a valid local law.

By so outrageously disregarding valid civil society concerns and Constitutional and other legal issues, the decision will not only fuel the ever present indignation, but will reawaken and strengthen the opposition. The 5 to 4 decision will give communities even more reasons to oppose a project that they’ve always seen as illegal, and which betrays fundamental political, environmental and human rights directives as set forth in local and national legislation, and the country’s own Constitution.

Given the above scenario, there is no way that civil strife will be avoided. In other words, CODELCO’s first mining project in Ecuador is off to a very rough start… say the least.

Session Gob Cotacachi 13-2-13

Polibio Pérez expressing Intag communities concerns at the Feb 13 session