Ecocide – Impending Mirador Mine Dam Collapse

Originally published 31 October 2019, YouTube channel of Ecocide – vs – Harmony with Nature

David Dene talks to PhD students and lawyers about an impending Ecocide in Ecuador.

He outlines the terrible catastrophe which will occur on the inevitable collapse of the Mirador Mine tailings facilities if these dams are built. One tailings dam, the Tundayme dam, will be the highest tailings dam in the world when built — at 273 meters high.

There are several legal issues present, and all are based on the #RightsofNature. The question offered to the Constitutional Court of Ecuador questions the right of the government to build such a dangerous dam at the very unsafe angle of 1.5 to 1, in a region rife with earthquakes.

Present angle of the Tundayme tailings dam

And to build it in the middle of the Amazone, with villages as close as one kilometer downstream. The highlighted red line shows the path of destruction leading into the Amazonian rainforest and jungle areas, including four rivers and irreplaceable flora and fauna.

David Dene speaks on the issue of tailings dams

2019 Update on Quimi and Tundayme Tailings dams in Ecuador

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.

Pachamama Alliance: An Update on the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative in 2019

9 October 2019; original article published JULY 17, 2019 | BY THE PACHAMAMA ALLIANCE

The Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative (ASHI), which was formally launched in the fall of 2017 by Pachamama Alliance, Amazon Watch, and CONFENIAE—the indigenous federation representing Ecuador’s Amazon region—made some significant strides in the first half of 2019.

The ASHI vision of permanent protection of nearly 60 million acres of rainforest territory in the headwaters of the Amazon has inspired a whole new level of collaboration among the indigenous groups in Ecuador and Peru. 

Indigenous leaders from the Achuar, Shuar, Wampis, Awajun, Shiwiar, and Kichwa held a historic summit
in Santa Maria Nieva, Peru.

Indigenous Collaboration

A series of ASHI meetings—attended for the first time by representatives of the various indigenous nationalities from Peru—were held in early 2019. One specific gathering in Peru in March to which many indigenous leaders from Ecuador traveled was particularly significant. The border between Ecuador and Peru had been redrawn in the midst of World War II and it arbitrarily sliced through indigenous territories separating families and cultures.

Various attendees movingly spoke of how this gathering and the vision of the Sacred Headwaters initiative fulfilled prophecies they remember hearing from their grandfathers that one day their people would be united again.  

AIDESEP—the indigenous federation representing the Amazonian people of Peru—is now fully on board of the Initiative and is a part of a recently created ASHI governing council. The council is made up of three members from AIDESEP, three from CONFENIAE, one from COICA—the organization representing the indigenous people of all nine Amazonian countries—and three from the NGO partners.

Decisions about budgets, plans and the overall direction of the Initiative are now made by the council. The challenges and the beauty of the operation of such a council are now all being worked out.

Fundraising and International Awareness

This year ASHI has had significant fundraising success receiving nearly $1.2 million in support from international foundations. This financial base is allowing a new and critically important phase of the Initiative to be launched. In late July 2019, an ASHI Commission will meet for the first time. The initial Commission will be made up of 18 international experts in the fields of regional planning, indigenous rights, ecological development, conservation finance, and others. Additional members will be added over time.

The very existence of the Commission will bring national and international credibility and visibility to the ASHI. The work of the Commission will be carried out over the next 12 months with the goal being the creation of an ASHI regional ecological development plan—including long-term financing strategies—that is supported by all of the key stakeholders of the Initiative: indigenous groups, NGOs, and local and national governments. 

Original article for further reading published here.

CEDHU: Effects of Mining in the Cóndor Mountain Range, Ecuador

First published by Comision Ecumenica de Derechos Humanos on 23 July 2019

Photograph credit: Ecuador’s Minister of Hydrocarbons Carlos Perez (C) talks to the media as copper output begins at the Chinese-owned Mirador mining project in Tundayme, Ecuador July 18, 2019. REUTERS/Daniel Tapia; Credit link: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ecuador-mining/ecuador-begins-large-scale-mining-at-mirador-copper-project-idUSKCN1UD36F

CEDHU rejects the implementation of this extractivistic model that has affected territories with high biodiversity, violating individual and collective rights, and that has exacerbated levels of violence.

The implementation of the Mirador project has led to the dispossession of ancestral territories, pollution, displacement, forced evictions and deaths, causing a serious socio-environmental conflict and criminalizing human rights and nature defenders. In the report prepared by social organizations for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations in November 2018, 32 evictions of families are registered, representing 136 affected people, of which 52 are children and adolescents, 12 elderly people and 58 adults.

The Mirador project is located in Tundayme, Zamora Chinchipe, in the Cordillera del Condor, one of the most diverse and fragile ecosystems in the world, according to studies that would affect 227 water sources. It is the first large-scale copper, silver and gold project to enter the exploitation phase in the country and one of the most conflictive. The intervention in the zone of influence has been violent, with the participation of dozens of police and private security guards from the company Ecuacorriente ECSA.

In the future, in the 30 years of operating life of the mine and that the State has guaranteed its renewal for the same period, there will be the removal of millions of tons of soil, chemical elements and the use of millions of cubic meters of fresh water, which will also be polluted. The cost of large-scale mining for the country will be high, prioritizing an economic gain in the medium term putting at risk the very lives of human beings who in turn depend on mother earth to survive. We are witnessing vast expanses of land in neighboring countries turned into desert by mining.

The Ecumenical Commission on Human Rights – CEDHU rejects the surrender of our natural resources for the benefit of transnational capital and the implementation of this extractive model that has affected territories with high biodiversity, violating individual and collective rights, and has exacerbated levels of violence.

We call on the authorities and government institutions to take into account the voice of the affected communities, populations and people, to respect the right to prior and popular consultation, and not to implement this extractivist model in an arbitrary, violent manner without the legitimacy of the affected sectors.

Diálogo Chino: Indigenous Communities Take Legal Action over Ecuador’s Largest Mine

7 July 2019: Originally published at Diálogo Chino by Andrés Bermúdez Liévano on July 4, 2019; republished under a Creative Commons license.

Local people seek justice through the courts over forced evictions and lack of consultation at Mirador copper mine

Luis Sánchez Shiminaycela, one of the leaders of the Mirador mining opposition group, points out the construction works from the road that led to the house where he was evicted at the end of 2015. Image Andrés Bermúdez Liévano.

Ever since more than 30 indigenous households were forcibly evicted by police and security personnel between September and December 2015, the River Quimi valley in the middle of the Ecuadorean Amazon has not had a moment’s peace.

Today, where these Shuar and Cañari-Kichwa families once lived, there gapes the gigantic open pit of the Mirador mine. The River Quimi descends from the Cordillera del Condor, a small mountain range in Zamora-Chinchipe province. The government hopes that copper extraction will begin there by the end of this year.

Mirador is the largest mine in Ecuador’s history and one of President Lenín Moreno’s “strategic” projects in a nationwide mining drive. Yet its future is uncertain in the face of a conflict between Chinese company Ecuacorriente and the villlagers of Tundayme, who are intent on recovering what they consider ancestral lands.

The backdrop is a corner of the country that scientists and biologists consider a “lost world” of immense natural wealth.

Tundayme’s evicted

No one in the Condor can agree on whether Rosario Wari Ampush reached 95, 107 or, improbably, 120 years old. However, all are certain she was the first in her family to die outside her home.

Two years before her death in July 2018, Wari Ampush and her son, who are indigenous Shuar, lost their ancestral home.

“They burned house. Grandparents built years ago. We were growing up and living there. They died there and left to us,” Rosario’s 64-year-old son Mariano Mashendo recounts in a broken Spanish almost devoid of articles. “You born here like trees, and age and die like them. Now, we don’t know what will happen with mining company. I am last of the family.”

The area where the mine will be developed is populated by indigenous Shuar peoples – who live in huts like this one – and Cañari Kichwa. Image: Andrés Bermúdez Liévano.

Mashendo tells his story from a humble wooden hut, from where can be seen the blue roof of a mining camp occupying the spot where his home once was.

At least 32 families, some 126 people, lost their homes due to evictions which the community and NGOs described as violent. The process was similar each time. Officials arrived at dawn ordering them to hand over their land and saying a cheque for compensation awaited them at the office of mining regulator Arcom.

They were given five minutes to leave. Their houses were demolished, the rubble buried in front of them.

“We filed two suits for cattle raiding, as they took 120 head of cattle and we recovered only 48, but they haven’t acknowledged liability… There has been no response from the government,” says Luis Sánchez Shiminaycela, a prominent community leader who identifies as indigenous Cañari-Kichwa.

Sánchez’s wife, daughter, parents, two brothers, their wives and five children lived in two seized houses on the banks of the Tundayme River.

At the heart of the conflict is a legal designation known as “mining easement”, which enables the government to identify property as necessary for a development project. Instead of expropriating it, the government can mandate it’s rental for up to three decades. In return, landowners receive compensation.

Manuel Mashendo, indigenous Shuar, points to where his family home was until they were evicted in February 2016. Image: Andrés Bermúdez Liévano.

“Even though people may say they don’t want to, or don’t understand the procedure, it doesn’t matter,” says attorney Francis Andrade of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (Repam), a Catholic organisation.

Some victims were even Ecuacorriente employees at the time of eviction.

“They knocked my house down and caused me a great deal of pain, emotionally and psychologically. My parents lost their lives trying to leave us something and this company has left us with nothing,” says William Uyaguari, who worked for seven years loading drilling machinery for the mine. Uyaguari says he was fired after suing the company over the eviction.

Like others, Mashendo, Sánchez and Uyaguari rejected earlier purchase offers and, outraged by the eviction, decided not to claim compensation. Instead, they are challenging the mine in the province of Zamora Chinchipe as members of the Amazonian Community of the Cóndor Mirador Mountain Range (Cascomi), which unites indigenous Shuar, Kichwa and peasant families.

No houses remained on the eastern bank of the Quimi River, between the Tundayme and Wawayme tributaries, which flow down from the mountain and into the Quimi. Where the small hamlet of San Marcos once stood, with its church and school, there is a steep headland. Atop the cliff a gigantic hole will soon serve as a tailings pond.

On the horizon is a five-storey building hugging the edge of a hill. Behind it, Ecuacorriente S. A., also known as Ecsa, plans to open the pit to extract copper.

Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group, a mining conglomerate from China’s Anhui province and the country’s second largest copper producer, along with China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), one of the largest construction companies in the world, own the mine. Both are state-owned companies.

Tundayme’s story is not unique. Indigenous Shuar, who used to live where the Panantza-San Carlos copper mine now operates in another corner of the Cóndor mountain range 40 kilometres away, complained of similarly violent evictions. The owner of that mine is ExplorCobres S.A. (Exsa), which is also controlled by Tongling and CRCC.

Mirador, which expects to start extracting copper by 2020, will be the largest open cast mine in Ecuador’s history. Image: Andrés Bermúdez Liévano.

From protests to courts

Powerless to stop the evictions, the indigenous people of Cascomi changed tactics. They took the company and the Ecuadorean state to court.

In Ecuador, as well as in other Latin American countries, local communities are now opting to complain via legal and political challenges, having realised that marches and roadblocks often lead to clashes with the police and criminal proceedings.

Many are winning. Last year, the courts decided that the Kichwa indigenous community of Río Blanco was not consulted on a gold mine in their territory. In October, another court ruled in favour of the Cofán of Sinangoe, who filed a similar complaint against mining concessions. Two months ago, the Waorani of the Amazon won a case against an oil project.

The residents of Tundayme have been less fortunate but continue to explore legal options in the ongoing Mirador conflict. Their case is complex, with at least five cases awaiting judgement.

The first and highest profile legal action argued that environmental rights had been violated.

In 2013, when Rafael Correa was president of Ecuador, four NGOs, a university, and the Shuar communities claimed the mine’s environmental impact assessment had not acknowledged the habitat of two endemic bird species where the mine pit would be.

Ecuador recognised the rights of nature in its 2008 constitution. Exterminating a species is tantamount to a violation of nature’s rights, the plaintiffs argued.

Dismissed by a judge in Quito, the case remains open in the Organisation of American States supranational Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

At the end 2013, Correa shuttered one of the NGOs involved, the Pachamama Foundation. He accused it of interfering in state policy and threatening national security. In June 2012, the Inter-American Court ruled in favour of an action brought by Pachamama Foundation against the state over its failure to consult the indigenous Kichwa of Sarayaku an oil project.

A year later, high profile Mirador opponent José Isidro Tendetza was found brutally murdered with signs of torture on his body. As Mario Melo, Pachamama’s lawyer, said: “All this shows how sensitive the Mirador issue is.”

Confrontations with mining opponents, who Correa described as “stone throwers” and “backward townspeople” have eased under Moreno. Legal challenges to mines, however, have multiplied.

In February 2018, Cascomi filed a second action, accusing the state of violating their right to decent housing by sanctioning evictions. They demanded Ecsa compensate them.

This suit, supported by Repam and legal NGO Inredh, was based on three arguments.

First, they were never forewarned of the evictions. All they were told was that there would be a process of mining easements and, in some cases, hearings.

Secondly, evictions were arbitrary and violent. They occurred at antisocial times and destroyed property.

Finally, there was no relocation plan. Many families still live in overcrowded conditions in borrowed houses, or pay rent elsewhere with no means of supporting themselves.

This is the new species of tree frog discovered in the Condor Range this year. Photo by Alex Achig.

The state countered that it does not consider Cascomi to represent an indigenous ancestral community and that Tundayme has no collective land deed demarcating the presence of an ethnic people who had to be consulted. (In Ecuador, like the US, indigenous communities own land under collective land deeds. The state says: no deed, not indigenous.)

The judge ordered an expert anthropological evaluation. But the report was inconclusive. It found that while Cascomi is not indigenous as an organisation, the territory is.

On 15 January 2019, a Quito judge sided with the government and dismissed the case, ruling that Cascomi is not indigenous and that evictions accorded with the law. After an appeal, on June 7 the provincial court of Pichincha upheld the ruling. Villagers are now preparing a final appeal to the constitutional court and will also submit to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

There is also a criminal complaint against Ecuacorriente for environmental damage to water sources, presented by provincial indigenous governor Salvador Quishpe and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorean Amazon (Confeniae).

There is a request before the constitutional court, the country’s highest court, for risk management assessments that guarantee the dam Ecsa is building on the Tundayme River will not cause a disaster similar to Brumadinho in Brazil. This request is based on a study by US hydrologist Steve Emerman.

Finally, Cascomi and the communities of the nearby Panantza-San Carlos project, filed another action arguing that the state has failed to implement the Comptroller General’s recommendations on prior consultation and mining controls.

Cascomi leaders have spoken at hearings of the IACHR in Washington and at the UN’s periodic review of China’s human rights.

The lost world of the Cóndor

On crossing the Zamora River, mountains of an intense emerald colour suddenly rise up from the ground.

Two scientific expeditions to the El Quimi Biological Reserve, located 10 kilometres from the copper mine as the crow flies, revealed that the Cóndor mountain range is one of the most biodiverse locations in Ecuador.

Among the dwarf plants living on its rocky, flat table-top, scientists came across a minute but eye-catching brown frog with yellow spots. Following two years of study, they announced their discovery in January 2019. It was a treefrog, which they named Hyloscirtus hillisi, a new species. Its most peculiar trait is a large claw at the base of the thumb, a suspected defence mechanism.

They also found two other frogs, a lizard and a rodent in the enigmatic tepuis Amazon ecosystem that rises 2,000 metres above the jungle. These are being documented and are expected to be announced as new species imminently.

“It was such an extraordinary place, where no specimens had been collected before. We need to go back again, because there are so many species waiting to be discovered,” says evolutionary biologist and renowned herpetologist Santiago Ron.

Scientists at the Zoology Museum are still unsure what makes the Cóndor such a biodiverse place but they have several hypotheses. One is the limestone soil comprising millions of tiny seashells, something unusual in the Andes.

It’s comparable to the large rocky tepuis of the Guiana Shield that rise up sporadically in the Amazon, from Colombia to the Guianas of northeastern South America. Another is the strange mineral composition attributable to vegetable tannins that flow from their heights and give it a translucent cola-coloured hue.

As these unique habitats have a high proportion of endemic species, scientists recommended classifying the new treefrog as “critically endangered”, especially given the destruction of its habitat by the nearby Mirador mine.

Such high biological value prompted scientists to call for the designation of a national park in the Cóndor mountain range.

“We have so much to lose and we’re not taking proper care of resources that can benefit all of humanity,” says Santiago Ron.

The Coca-Cola coloured rivers of Quimi, caused by vegetable tannins, is one of the most peculiar natural features of the Cóndor mountain range. Image: Andrés Bermúdez Liévano.

There is another powerful, political reason why the area’s protection matters.

Between January and February 1995, a hundred people died during a brief war between Ecuador and Peru. The conflict centred on the Cenepa River on the Peruvian side of the Cóndor.

A peace treaty signed by the two countries in Brasilia in October 1998 put an end to more than a century of territorial disputes by promising to create contiguous national parks that would preserve the border area and mitigate future conflict. It even stipulated that indigenous people should be able to travel freely between them.

“We have made the decision, both countries, that where we used to fight, where Peruvian and Ecuadorean soldiers have died, we must honour their memories in the best way we can: by celebrating life. That is why, in that same place, we have created two ecological parks in perpetuity … so that never again can a drop of blood be shed in that part of our territories,” said then Ecuadorean President, Jamil Mahuad.

However, Ecuador has only created two small biological reserves (Quimi and Cóndor), which total 114 square kilometres.

“We feel betrayed because we helped the Ecuadorean government build these roads for the Army to use in the war, and now, when we need them, they abandon us,” says Luis Sánchez.

The scientists who have tried to publicise their findings remain concerned about the risk of open pit mine for Cóndor’s biodiversity.

“In Ecuador we don’t take into consideration the environmental mishaps of mining,” says Ron.

Huge bunkers dug in the mountain during the war between Ecuador and Peru still remain in the area. Image: Andrés Bermúdez Liévano.

Ecuadorean and Chinese national interests

Faced with dipping global oil prices, Ecuador’s last two governments sought alternative revenue streams and focused on mining.

With 3.18 million tonnes of copper, 3.39 million ounces of gold and 27.11 million tonnes of silver, Mirador is the jewel in the crown of the country’s plans for mining to contribute 4% of GDP by 2021.

Despite this, neither the government nor Ecuacorriente recognise the legacy of social and legal conflict that persists in Mirador and that could hinder its future operation.

The current government blames past mistakes on Correa’s belligerence. “We want to do things differently,” says Benalcázar, vice-minister for mining at the Ministry of Energy and Non-renewable Resources. “We want to have adequate financial, legal and security conditions in place for investors to come, with an understanding of the existing laws and regulations.”

Benálcazar cites Moreno’s 2018 decision to create a super-ministry to promote a long-term policy on hydrocarbons, mining and energy.

For the vice minister, the mine’s advantages are obvious: 3,000 direct and 10,000 indirect jobs; US$211 million in anticipated royalties and taxes; US$5.5 billion total income for the government, with 60% of the royalties to be invested at the local and provincial levels, according to the law.

Partnering with a Chinese company also gives them guaranteed access to the world’s largest copper market.

Mirador is one of four strategic mining projects for Ecuador, which bets on the mining resources to replace oil revenues. Image: Andrés Bermúdez Liévano.

“I have not witnessed any conflict. What I have seen leads me to think that a good relationship exists. They have very interesting community projects involving environmental and social issues,” says Benalcázar, who used to work in the oil sector in Colombia and Syria.

The ministry, he says, is working with Ecsa to demanding action plans to resolve environmental violations and improve industrial safety after two fatal accidents at the mine in late 2018. It also aims to increase employment of local, rather than Chinese, workers.

Ecuacorriente says it has already invested US$1.4 million in Mirador and acknowledges that relations with the communities were initially tense. It insists that they have improved since channels for dialogue were opened and community projects including folkloric dance workshops invested in.

The company is adamant that the court ruling which declared the lands of public interest justified the evictions.

“If the two parties fail to reach an agreement and the price is unreasonable, the government may resort to the right of easement as a national strategic project. It was not our company that carried it out, but the Ecuadorean government,” says Jun Zhu, Ecsa’s head of community relations.

“They proposed the solution when the project was at a standstill,” Jun says. The company, he explained, paid up to six times the market price for the land and is building the new town of Nuevo San Marcos to relocate affected families.

Neither of the two recognises Cascomi as a valid complainant, insisting that the courts proved it is not an indigenous organisation and does not have collective rights. They also say it has been manipulated by foreign actors.

“South Americans are very decent people, but are easily mobilised by slogans, especially of the spiritual or anti-materialist sort,” says Jun. “Although they are poor in life, they don’t understand that these resources can satisfy their needs, and many NGOs seize on this to promote illusions, such as opposing mining or protecting the environment for future generations. And it is easy to believe their words.”

Like Río Blanco, the Mirador case highlights that indigenous self-identification is complicated. “To be honest, I don’t think it is their own initiative. They are influenced by the NGOs, for better or for worse… It is difficult to deal with NGOs that have extreme positions and are against any kind of development”, says Benalcázar, despite the Ecuadorean government itself promoting self-identification since 2010.

Many social and academic organisations disagree.

“It is often believed that communities do not have self-determination, that their strategies and discourse are those of others who manipulate them, as if they were children or fools,” says Ivonne Yáñez, a biologist with the NGO Acción Ecológica.

“The state believes it is a question of employment, royalties and direct foreign investment, and not the environment”, Yáñez adds.

“That [self-identification] doesn’t mean there isn’t a right, which must be respected and protected, to be consulted and to protect their homes”, agrees Mario Melo, director of the Catholic University’s Human Rights Centre.

Ecuacorriente had spoken of a relocation plan for the evicted families of San Marcos, but its execution is not so evident. Image: Andrés Bermúdez Liévano.

The Inter-American Court’s ruling on Sarayaku in 2012 ordered that prior consultation be regulated in Ecuador in accordance with international norms. This motivated an official visit by Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN’s special rapporteur on indigenous peoples, last November. Mirador was one of six places she visited.

Benalcázar confirmed that the government is working on a draft regulation.

Several parties seem unaware of the complexities of a territory where diverse groups have co-existed since the mid-20th century.

The Shuar, who were originally nomads, are the most numerous people of the Ecuadorean Amazon. The first settlers were the Ampush family, in 1910. Four decades later, thousands of Kichwa families migrated from the highlands to the jungle in search of land to cultivate. Among them were Luis’ family from the Sigsig mountains.

Many arrived thanks to agrarian incentives from the military dictatorship that took power in 1963, which sought to guard the border with Peru. However, that policy meant indigenous peoples from the highlands occupying other ethnic groups’ ancestral territories.

The state did not recognise collective land deeds of Amazonian peoples such as the Shuar of Tundayme, paving the way for future conflicts such as that of Mirador.

With an absent state and no space for dialogue, disputes in remote territories can rapidly escalate into open conflicts. When the government becomes aware and reacts, it is often too late.

“Instead of militarising and evicting people, sending machinery and backhoes to bury houses, the state should intervene differently, helping communities to plan,” says Jaime Vargas, Achuar leader and president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaje).

The environmental issue, meanwhile, seems relegated to second place.

The Ecuadorian government insists that the mine will encourage development and resources that this forgotten jungle region has not yet seen. Foto: Andrés Bermúdez Liévano.

“If the region is so [biologically] rich, if it meets the requirements to be part of the system of protected areas – which is an exhaustive process – and becomes one, we will respect it,” says Benálcazar. “That was the decision of the Ecuadorean people,” he adds, referring to the February 2018 referendum that banned mining in protected areas.

Benálcazar had not heard of the newly discovered frog, nor of the state’s commitment to create a national park in the Cóndor. He did say he wants to work on biodiversity and water management with large international NGOs like the World Wildlife Fund, the Wildlife Conservation Society and The Nature Conservancy.

Ecuacorriente, for its part, insists that Tongling has never had any accidents and that its mine has the highest technical standards.

“The fact that one dam in Brazil collapsed does not mean all the dams in the world will be affected. It must be because they didn’t do their job well,” says Zhu. He says he still hopes for reconciliation with Cascomi and the Tundayme population.

Despite the appearance of tranquillity that the company and the government seek to present, a significant portion of the local population still feel their concerns have been ignored. The number of lawsuits shows that if efforts are not made to diffuse the conflict. Operations at Mirador will begin extracting copper without the community’s consent.

As Melo says: “People have seen that legal actions can be an alternative. That’s good, because if the violence escalates, everyone loses.”

The natural wealth of the Cóndor mountain range has been one of the most least mentioned arguments in the public debate about the Mirador mine. Image: Andrés Bermúdez Liévano.

This report, the second in a three-part series on the environmental and social footprint of two Chinese mining projects in Ecuador, received support from the Rainforest Journalism Fund through the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Lawyer for Affected by Chevron/Texaco Speaks about the Partnership between UDAPT and The Crowd Versus

Pablo Fajardo Explains UDAPT’s Relationship with The Crowd Versus

English Translation

In the personal words of Pablo Fajardo, attorney for the UDAPT Organization, representing the over 30,000 people affected by the oil pollution left behind in Lago Agree, Ecuador:

When we decided to make this agreement with The Crowd Versus, we did so after researching the work they do. Certainly, there have been many offers from various other platforms that attract resources, but it seems to us that the work of The Crowd Versus is perfectly aligned with that of UDAPT, which is a work that is attached to the social struggle, to the defense of the rights of nature, of human rights, of indigenous peoples, and of access to justice. So The Crowd Versus policy is really fully compatible with the dreams, with the aspirations, with the struggle of UDAPT, and this identifies us fully with the work.

Call to Action:

Do you want to help by either donating (here) or becoming an online activist (here)?

We welcome the opportunity to help you. On our Be The Difference page, after the philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi, we enable your creative ideas and work to be showcased to help this case.

Share your art and inspirations to make the world a better place for all of us!

Link to UDAPT.org website; link to UDAPT’s post here.

Spanish Transcript

Cuando decidimos hacer este acuerdo con The Crowd Versus lo hicimos previa investigación del trabajo que ellos hacen. Por cierto, han existido muchas ofertas de varias otras plataformas que captan recursos, pero nos parece que el trabajo de The Crowd Versus es perfectamente coerente con lo de la UDAPT, que es un trabajo que está pegado a la lucha social, a la defensa de los derechos de la naturaleza, de los derechos humanos, de los pueblos indígenas, y del acceso a la justicia. Entonces la politica de The Crowd Versus es realmente compatible plenamente con los sueños, con la aspiración, con la lucha de la UDAPT, y esto nos identifica plenamente con el trabajo.

Students of the Arts HKU Explain on Anti-Chevron Day: Oil in Your Food, Water and Lands Was and Will Never Be Normal

Between 1964 and 1990 oil giant Chevron (formerly Texaco) contributed to one of the biggest environmental disasters in the history. A gigantic oil spill contaminated an area of 4,800 square kilometres of the Amazonian rainforest in Ecuador. It destroyed the lands of 30,000 indigenous people and farmers, and the biodiversity in the area. For over 25 years now, they fight a difficult legal battle against Chevron to achieve justice.

25-Year Fight for Legal Justice

In 1993 the 30,000 peasants and indigenous people joined forces in UDAPT (Spanish Acronym of ‘la Unión de Afectados y Afectadas por las Operaciones Petroleras de Texaco’). This organization started litigation to have Chevron (formerly Texaco) pay to create health programs for the affected peoples and to restore the lands and water. The Ecuador National Court ordered Chevron to pay 9.5 billion dollars, but they refused. Instead, Chevron left with all its assets. That is why the plaintiffs have to go abroad to achieve justice, where the legal road is long and exhausting. 

Art Students Take Action 

Students from the University of the Arts Utrecht took action. They made a short film to create awareness of the situation. To help people to relate to the situation in Ecuador, they show an average European family living in an oil contaminated home and neighborhood.

One of the students, Thomas Paschenegger said: “We are honored to contribute to this important legal battle for environmental and social justice in Ecuador. It would be fantastic if the film creates more awareness and support of the situation of the UDAPT people, and informs people about the crimes committed by Chevron.”

Creating Awareness

The assignment of this film came from The Crowd Versus. The Crowd Versus is supporting the case of UDAPT against Chevron since 2014.

According to Marco Witschge, platform co-lead: “We are constantly looking for new ways to create awareness and donations for this case. The students of the HKU did a fantastic job. This case is not only of great importance for the people in Ecuador, but also for the world. It will better protect our human rights and the rights of nature, and it shows irresponsible corporations that the law applies to all.” 

Want to help? Our Call To Action:

  1. Whatever you like to do, photography, vlog, draw a great cartoon, or cook to create your own fundraising event, know that we would love to enlarge the footprint of your message. You can do more for the indigenous people and farmers of Ecuador by posting your own content and picking the Chevron v. Ecuador case to support with your (artistic) work here.
  2. Donate here to make a difference.

Together we create more awareness for their cause and funding, a win-win situation for both you and the UDAPT nonprofit.

The Crowd Versus Chevron Oil Spill

We Support the People of Ecuador

We, the students of the HKU (University of the Arts Utrecht), are working on a special project to support the case ‘The Crowd vs. Chevron oil spill in Ecuador.’

We made a substance that looks like oil and it works!

Soon you will discover what it’s for…

students of the HKU
HKU student busy developing an oil-like substance

Check below for more information about the Chevron v. Ecuador case:

The Crowd vs. Chevron Oil Spill in Ecuador

93% funded
We've raised €13,901.09 of the €15,000.00 we are trying to raise for this case!
The Crowd Claims The lawsuit against Chevron by the Amazon people raises two fundamental questions for the Canadian court to decide: (1) Should justice prioritize human rights over the interests of transnational…

Canadian Supreme Court denies justice to Indigenous Ecuadorians

Filed in Environmental justice by Friends of the Earth on April 4, 2019

Picture credit: Tiputini River and rainforest, Yasuni National Park, Amazon, Ecuador. (Pete Oxford/Minden Pictures/Corbis); Read more at Smithsonianmag.com.

On April 4th 2019, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal in the historic case of the Indigenous people of Ecuador versus Chevron, which has become known as the “Amazonian Chernobyl” due to its devastating impact on the region.

The Ecuadorian plaintiffs seek to enforce a judgment by Ecuador’s highest court ordering Chevron to pay more than $9.5 billion dollars for clean-up of the pollution  caused by deliberately negligent operation of oil fields.

Canadian court rulings

The ruling represents a step backward for the Union of People Affected by Chevron-Texaco (UDAPT) of Ecuador and victims of corporate crimes around the world. The Supreme Court of Canada could have adopted an innovative forward-looking approach with respect to corporate responsibility, justice and equity by ensuring Indigenous communities have access to justice and reparations.

By denying the appeal, the Supreme court chose to continue with the interpretation of the current laws which favour corporate impunity.

“It’s regrettable that legal technicalities and the lack of money pose obstacles to access to justice for people who are victims of corporate crimes. In spite of the decision in Canada, our quest for justice will continue,  and we will initiate legal proceedings in other countries,” said Willian Lucitante, Coordinator of UDAPT.

The Supreme Court of Canada previously recognized this lawsuit as public interest litigation. But the judges of the Ontario lower court declared that “[t]here is a difference between economic reality and legal reality”, so the laws in force should not be modified.

If the laws are changed, the Ecuadorian lawsuit could affect Canadian companies and force them to prioritize human rights above their business interests.

Pablo Fajardo, the lawyer for the Indigenous people and peasants affected by Chevron said “It is regrettable that, once again, a country demonstrates that justice is structured to protect and guarantee impunity for transnational corporations. The Supreme Court of Canada did not get a chance to hear the merits of the Ecuadorian case and only resolved not to accept the appeal. Our lawyers did not get the opportunity to explain the ramifications of Chevron’s legal structure, which protects it from lawsuits by those impacted by their negligent operations. This is a disastrous precedent for social struggles, for rights and justice”.

Seeking justice for over 25 years

The communities’ lawsuit for justice and reparation has been advancing through the courts for over 25 years. This trial has become an emblematic demonstration of impunity that allows transnational corporations to suffer no consequences when they violate Indigenous and human rights. 

UDAPT organization and background

The UDAPT is a grassroots organization made up of six Indigenous Nations and more than 80 peasant communities, representing over 30,000 people affected by the oil company Texaco and their irresponsible activities in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Texaco, acquired by Chevron in 2001, contaminated more than 450.000 hectares of virgin forest (that is more than 650,000 soccer fields!).

The oil company dumped crude oil, toxic waters and polluting gases that affected ecosystems, the population’s health and cultural systems, security and food sovereignty, which increased poverty and exclusion.

This contamination has had a serious impact on the health of the UDAPT community; causing the highest rates of childhood leukemia in Ecuador. Cancer deaths are one hundred and thirty percent more frequent and the mortality risk is two hundred and sixty percent higher than in other parts of Ecuador. Cancer accounts for thirty two percent of total deaths, 3 times more than the national average.

On top of these challenges, Chevron uses all means to obstruct the communities’ access to justice while  the contamination of the soil and rivers of the Ecuadorian Amazon continues. Every year people die without hope of reparation for future generations.

Working at binding treaty at United Nations level

During the past years, UDAPT along with hundreds of non-profit organizations that stand for human rights has joined with international efforts, whose aim  is to lobby for the creation of a binding treaty on transnational corporations and human rights at the United Nations.

The emblematic battle of the Ecuadorians against Chevron has unveiled the structure of impunity that allows transnational corporations to get away with gross human rights violations and environmental damage.

For additional comments by Willian Lucitante, check the website of texacotoxico.net.

The Crowd Versus will continue to crowdfund for their legal needs

The Crowd Versus will continue to seek donations and crowdfund for this very important case. The indigenous peoples and Ecuadorian people stand at the front line of the defense against climate pollution by irresponsible governments and corporations.

The UDAPT have a judgment and they seek enforcement to achieve justice.

We believe they will prevail.

If you do, too, then show your faith here or become active on their behalf here.

English and Spanish Video Published about Chevron Vs Ecuador Case

29 February 2019, from Proche d’Amazonie

In February of 2011 the Ecuadorian Courts delivered an historic verdict, sentencing the Big Oil Corporation Chevron-Texaco to pay US$9,500 million dollars for its contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon (1964-1992).

However, Chevron hit back via the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system (ISDS) and sued Ecuador in the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) based in The Hague, Netherlands. The corporation accused Ecuador of having violated Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) it had signed with the US.

In August of 2018, a private arbitration panel for the CPA ruled in favour of Chevron, ordering Ecuador to overturn the sentence it had passed in favour of the affected. At the heart of the matter is an illegal, unconstitutional and inapplicable judgement that contravenes international public order.

Pablo Fajardo and Justino Piaguaje, lawyer and representative of the Union of those affected by the Chevron-Texaco (UDAPT) respectively, explain how this ruling violates Ecuadorian sovereignty and constitutes a major case of corporate impunity that risks setting dangerous precedents for the defence of the natural world and of collective human rights.

From Proche d’Amazonie: http://proche-amazonie.net/fc/viewtopic.php?t=1216&at_id=1216

Call to Action:

If you wish to donate to this case, please use this link. In order to help the Ecuadorian UDAPT group with organizing your own event, try this link for ideas.