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Ecuador: Local communities oppose country's largest copper mine funded by Chinese firm

Author: Ning Hui, China Dialogue, Published on: 19 July 2019

“Few options left for local communities opposing Ecuador’s largest copper mine”, 8 July 2019

The Mirador copper mine has pitted locals against the government and a Chinese mining company they say failed to consult them and forcibly evicted them…

… This large mine [Mirador copper mine] has ore reserves of 660 million tonnes and has been operated by Tongguan since 2010…

After three rounds of evictions, 136 people from 32 households in San Marcos [near Mirador] were forced to leave...

… lawyer Mario Melo Cevallos has been following the Mirador mine and representing the Kichwa in their human rights lawsuits. He complains that “the government approved the Mirador project without ever listening to social or environmental concerns”.

… The mine’s environmental impact has seen the greatest criticism. The Condor Range isn’t just a huge store of copper, it’s also incredibly rich in biodiversity…

… Lawyer Mario Melo Cevallos… [said] “Since 2013 those opposing the mine for various reasons have brought at least six lawsuits.”

Those lawsuits have complained of infringements of the rights of nature, of the murder of indigenous leaders, of infringement of community housing rights, and of the failure to allow indigenous people their right to free and prior consent. Subsequent lawsuits have attempted to address environmental destruction, to use constitutional protections against the tailings pond, and to use administrative processes to void existing environmental permits.

But so far, the cases against the mines – brought variously by local officials, indigenous community groups, individuals, environmental groups and scientists – have all been lost…

Tongguan maintains it did nothing wrong in the San Marcos evictions. “They’re always complaining about San Marcos, saying it was forced eviction and using it as a weapon against us,” says Zhu [community relations manager since 2013 for Tongguan]...

It is not rare for Chinese mining firms to encounter sustained opposition from indigenous communities. Li Ai, a policy specialist with Greenpeace... says: “Chinese firms often become the front line of interactions between local communities and various interest groups in the host nation.”…

According to Li Ai: “The direct economic benefits to local communities from oil and mining investments are tiny, but indigenous communities bear the brunt of environmental and other consequences. Wastewater flows into rivers, rainforests are destroyed, biodiversity is damaged, land is appropriated, and locals relocated. For the indigenous people, someone is walking into their home and destroying things they treasure.”…

In November 2018, Luis [chairman of the Amazonian Community of the Cóndor Mirador Mountain Range] travelled to Geneva to describe the Mirador case at a review of China’s human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council. The UN report on that review... contains China’s response. China undertook to: “Promote measures that ensure that development and infrastructure projects inside and outside its territory are fully consistent with human rights and respect the environment and the sustainability of natural resources, in line with applicable national and international law and the commitments of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”… [Also refers to Junefield Mineral Resources and the Hunan Gold Corporation, the China Aluminium Corporation, Zijin Mining, Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group, China Railway Construction Corporation, EcuaCorriente S.A., Corriente Resources]

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Related companies: China Aluminium Corporation (Chinalco) China Minmetals China Nonferrous Metal Mining China Railway Construction Corriente Resources (joint venture Tongling Nonferrous Metals, China Railway Construction Corporation & CRCC-Tongguan Investment) Junefield Mining Resources Zijin