Mass Mobilizations Against Mining in Ecuador

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In Ecuador, Mass Mobilizations Against Mining Confront President Correa

Written by Daniel Denvir, Jennifer Moore, and Teresa Velasquez
Wednesday, 19 November 2008

In Ecuador, thousands of indigenous, campesinos, Afro-descendants and environmentalists took to the streets on Monday, protesting the pending mining law and government failure to fully apply a mining mandate passed by the National Constituent Assembly in April.

With strong turnout in five different parts of the country, the day of action was an important demonstration of growing social movement unity and independence from the government of President Rafael Correa. Activists call Monday's mobilization the beginning of a broader movement to confront Correa's environmental policies. The Ecuadorian Left has increasingly distanced itself from the government after broadly supporting the approval of a new constitution in September.

In Quito, hundreds of people from rural communities threatened by mining throughout Ecuador's Northern highlands, especially from the northwestern area of Intag, participated. Intag has blocked the entrance of mining companies since the early 1990s and is currently fighting the Canadian-financed transnational Ascendant Copper.

Jose Cueva, a community leader from Intag, said, "They need to shelve the mining law. The President needs to first pass a food sovereignty law, a water law and a biodiversity law. Then we can have a national dialogue over what to do about mining."

Metal mining has been promoted in Ecuador since the early nineties, however, no large-scale project has yet to reach production. Growing alliances were in evidence as hundreds of coastal campesinos or montubios and Afro-Ecuadorians joined anti-mining activists in Quito, protesting Correa's support large-scale industrial shrimp farming.

In the southern highlands city of Cuenca, the country's third largest, some 600 people participated. The march, which wove through the colonial city streets, was led by the Unified Community Water Systems of Azuay (UNAGUAS) and the Federation of Campesino Organizations.
More than nine rural communities were represented.

These communities are directly affected by various mining concessions in the hands of companies such as Toronto-based IAMGOLD, as well as other companies listed on Toronto Stock Exchange, including International Minerals, Andean Gold and Channel Resources.

A member of the rural water system from Victoria-Tarqui said, "We have come out in defense of water which is life for the entire country. It is Correa's fault that we are out here. We are defending the wetlands of Quimsacocha, our water."

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