(Note- The original document in Spanish is here)
This is the letter that Intag’s organization sent to Chile’s president. It was delivered to the Presidential Palace on November 8, 2012
Intag, Imbabura, Ecuador. October 26, 2012
Sebastian Pinera Echenique
Constitutional President of Chile
Presidency of the Republic
Santiago de Chile
Dear Mr. President,
Our warmest regards from those of us who form part of the executive boards of the organizations from the Zona de Intag, Imbabura Province, Ecuador.
We are writing to express our deep concern about the possible intervention of CODELCO in our area in a copper mining project called Llurimagua.
As is common knowledge, on July 26 of this year the governments of Chile and Ecuador signed an agreement in Santiago that, among other things, gave green light for CODELCO to begin the advanced exploration within the Llurimagua concession, starting the second semester of 2013. Intag/s Communities and organizations consider the agreement invalid, for violating certain rights Constitutional rights enshrined in our Constitution, including the right to prior consultation and the right to a Good Life (Sumak Kawsay).
The goal of the agreement is to develop what would be a mega copper project in the Cordillera de Toisán, a pristine area exceptionally rich in water resources and cloud forests that are home to dozens of species of mammals, birds and other endangered species.
Given that CODELCO is a Chilean state enterprise, and therefore property of all Chilean citizens, we would like to present to you, as the highest civil authority, some information about the project that help explain why it has been rejected by the communities, organizations and local governments since the subsidiary of the Mitsubishi failed to develop the mine in this location in the 1990s.
The objective of the following information is intended to provide you with information in order to have Codelco desist from involvement in this devastating mining project.
1. Biodiversity. As mentioned above, the mining area is located in an area exceptionally rich in forests, which not only protect dozens of pristine watersheds, but that are home to dozens of endangered species. In the only EIA undertaken for this particular mining project by Japanese experts and based on a small copper mine (of only 450,000 tons of pure copper) it identified 12 species threatened with extinction that would be impacted by the mining project. These include the spectacled bear, mountain tapir, the critically endangered brown-headed spider monkey, and jaguars. Given that the Japanese did not thoroughly study the impacts on amphibians, reptiles and other groups of organisms, the environmental organization DECOIN, determined the presence of at least 50 endangered species that could be impacted by this project.
2. Deforestation. The environmental impact study mentioned earlier, would, in the words of the authors, cause “massive deforestation”, by the mining project. So massive, that the authors predicted that our climate would dry up; even so far as to use the term “desertification” to describe the impact on our area.
3. Rainfall. The Cordillera del Toisán receives approximately 3,000 millimeters of rain annually. In El Niño years, rainfall may increase up to 50%. This makes mining extremely dangerous, and much more impacting than in the Atacama Desert, where CODELCO operates most of its mines.
4. Pollution. In the EIA the Japanese predicted that our rivers would be polluted with heavy heavy metals, including lead, arsenic, cadmium and chromium, among others.
5. Impacts to protected areas. Much of the Llurimagua mining area, Mr. President, is in the midst of Toisán Municipal Protected Area, which covers 18,000 hectares. In addition, it is adjacent to the Chontal Protected Forest, and directly affects hundreds of acres of Junin Community Reserve. This last reserve has been managed by the community of Junín and other surrounding communities since 1996, and is part of the community tourism project in the same community. Moreover, the EIA prognosticated impacts on the biodiverse Cotacachi-Cayapas, one of the most biodiverse protected areas in the world, and the only one of importance in western Ecuador.
6. Social impacts. The authors of the EIA which, it’s worth underlining, was developed for a small copper mine, also predicted that four communities would have to be relocated. In those years, this involved the relocation of over 100 families. At present, and due to subsequent findings, it could now involve relocating at least six communities.
7. Mineral content of the site. We are aware that the Ecuadorian government is selling this mining project as among the world’s richest copper deposit. The reality is different, and very different. The copper deposit has never been proven, it is only inferred in nature, according to the only explorations performed by the Japanese in 1990s. This is because the Japanese had to abandon the project before completing the exploration due to the categorical opposition by communities and local governments. In other words, the fantastic figure of millions of tons of copper in the Cordillera de Toisán that the government promotes, is pure fantasy.
It is important to stress that the above impacts were based on only mine 450,000 tons of copper. After publishing the EIA, the Japanese inferred the possible presence of five times more copper, which would dramatically increase the social and environmental impacts mentioned above.
The rejection by local governments and communities to mining has been consolidating over the years, and as a result, Canadian mining company Copper Mesa was expulsed in 2010. Such was the rejection of mining in our area, that the company couldn’t even access its concessions in order to explore. The presence of Copper Mesa caused major social conflicts in our communities, and was caused flagrant violations of our human and collective rights; impacts that we still feel.
Instead of the environmental destruction and social conflict that is synonymous with large-scale mining, our area has been developing a wide range of sustainable production projects, which do not threaten the environment, and strengthen communities and local economies, as for example, nature and community tourism; shade-grown coffee production and agroecological production, among many other alternatives.
These alternatives ensure Good Living for successive generations, and give life to our communities.
Intag’s communities and organizations, together with local governments, have already expelled two transnational companies who tried to develop large-scale mining in our area. Therefore, more than ever Intag civil society, with support from other sectors of our province and the country, are permanently vigilant in order to protect our right to choose a future free of mining, and will not allow this mining project to mining.
For these reasons Mr. President, we hope you understand our demand and ask you to do everything in your power to stop CODELCO’s intervention in the Llurimagua mining project in Intag.
Isabel Anangonó Jose Rivera
Intag Women Coordinator Association of Coffee Producers RIO INTAG
Representing 12 organizations In representation of 450 coffee producers
President Dayana Herrera Associations President
Eco Tourism Network Intag Intag Youth Coordinator
José Cueva Silvia Quilumbango
CEO Ecological Defense and Conservation of Intag
Representing 7 Organizations
Talleres Gran Valle
Representing several productive groups
Zona de Intag, Imbabura, Ecuador. 26 de octubre 2012