11 October 2019; written David Dene and the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature of Ecuador.

Engineer Steve Emerman’s expert report on the two Tailings dams under construction at the Mirador Mine in the Cordillera Del Cóndor has brought to our attention what could possibly constitute one of the greatest threats upon the sacred headwaters of the Amazon.

In brief, two tailings dams are under construction.

 The Quimi dam (63 meters high) is being built in a manner described in engineering terms as critical, or in other words: on the edge of collapse.

The Tundayme dam will be the highest tailings dam in the world (270 meters high). It is being built in a manner which will lead to inevitable collapse.

The following schematics visually demonstrate the dangerous building angle / techniques, being used by Ecuacorriente S.A., or ECSA as it is known in Quito.

Quimi Tailings dam with present angle of construction of 1 meter vertical to 1 meter horizontal — on ‘critical’ edge of collapse in engineering terms

The schematics show the angle of construction which is too steep in both cases.

Taking into consideration the seismic activity and extreme rainfall in the area and the upstream construction where the tailings themselves act as part of the dam, we have, in Mr. Emerman’s words, a scenario of inevitable collapse.

Tundayme dam schematic, already under construction, and projected to be the highest tailings dam in the world, using 1 meter vertical to 1.5 meters horizontal construction — whereas 1 meter vertical to 2 meters horizontal represents European standards of construction

Upstream construction has been declared illegal in Chile and in Brazil.

Upstream construction is primarily appropriate in semi-arid zones without seismic activity. If these tailings dam are constructed, they will in all probability collapse.

Two important reasons contribute to this future possible scenario. One is the seismic activity already recorded and present in Ecuador. This worst scenario indicates a 350 kilometer area of the sacred headwaters of the Amazon will be inundated by a tsunami  of tailings with toxic materials, which will irredeemably kill and bury all life under poisonous mud.

Another consideration remains the heavy rainfall in the area, which will produce a “run off” from these dead river valleys. This may flow across borders and pollute the River Amazon with heavy metals, cyanide, mercury, arsenic and sulphuric acid, causing slow cancerous bio-accumulation in all species, including human.

To illustrate the proper angle for the 63 meter high Quimi Tailings dam, a vertical 1 meter to 2 meter horizontal slope should be used to ensure the more safe angle to keep the toxic materials enclosed

The Confederations and NGOs involved in the Initiative to protect these sacred headwaters have a need to know and understand the seriousness of this threat.

We have a case pending in the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court in which the court will have to define the precautionary principle as described in the Constitutional Rights of Nature of Ecuador.

Simply put: Nature has a right to life.

If these dams are built Nature will die.

We are asking for an injunction by the highest Court in Ecuador, in order to stop the building of these dams and review building techniques, in order to build with the highest safety standards commensurate with the Canadian Dam Association’s category of risk from these dams, risk to humans and the environment.

At present, the risk is categorized as extreme.

It is logical and responsible when faced with EXTREME risk to employ extreme caution in building constructions to ensure absolute safety in perpetuity.

It will be beneficial for the rights of Nature, if all people working for the protection of the sacred waters of the Amazon become aware of this: one of the greatest threats that the Amazon has ever faced.  It will be beneficial to have all available support in this case, especially from Indigenous Confederations whose mandate is the protection of the sacred headwaters of the Amazon.

This could be a strong pressure on the administration to care for Nature.

Author: David Dene; reprinted with express permission.

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