The entire area is very productive agriculturally and is quite unfit for the kind of mining activity proposed by ANTEMIN as the land in question is frequently flooded by the Bomboiza river; the environmental impact of the Co.'s operation would be enormous. The majority of the people in the concession and even on the outside are against the establishment of the company in their land and are willing to take up arms if necessary.
This notice will serve to diffuse the information I have been able to gather through traveling and the federation on an international basis and hopefully to motivate people to send letters to the adresses below expressing opposition to this kind of mining activity on community lands. The objective is to convince the Ecuadorian gov. to nulify the rights to the concession. Feel free to suggest other lists to circulate this message further. - Thanks
The major events since then have included an assembly in the Gualaquiza Municipal Council on November 12th, 1993, during which the people voted unanimously to prevent the company from exploiting the mine, and an assembly at the Asociacion de Bomboiza (in the Shuar centro of the same name) where again both Shuar and colonos resolved to fight to the end. There has also been a direct confrontation between Mr. Harvey Marlin and the townspeople when he tried to give a supporting speech at the mentioned Municipal Council assembly. I myself was present during the last major assembly (Sunday July 3rd, 1994) held in the centro of Bomboiza at which both Shuar and colono peasants peacefully gathered to express their solidarity against this concession.
The human history of the land begins with the Shuar, indigenous people who have inhabited this rainy mountainous terrain for hundreds of years. In the 1920's the Salesians established a mission (thus the name "La Misionera") in the area to control the conflicts between Shuar and miners and prospectors from the highlands. At the same time the Salesians worked to organize the Shuar to prevent their retreat into the eastern forests. In 1964, the Salesians formed the Federation Shuar which had as its primary objective the tilting of Shuar landholdings in the face of the influx of highland colonists.
The Federation was later taken over by the Shuar themselves.
Today the Shuar own about 37% of the arable land in the region of Gualaquiza (Rudell, Horrowitz. Tropical Deforestation.
Small Farmers and Land Clearing in the Ecuadorean Amazon).
Today the area of the concession includes the Shuar center of Pumpuitz (Bomboiza), Nayanmak, the colono parroquia of Mercedes Molina, the parroquia of Bomboiza, and other small communities.
The land lying over the subsoil concession is thouroughly cultivated and utilized by both colonos and Shuar, as evidenced by the extensive cow pastures and the cultivation of an astounding variety of products: maize, beans, bananas, plantains, manioc, camote, rice, coffee, cacao, achiote, citruses including oranges, limas, lemons, and other fruits such as papayas, guanabana, guava, various palms, and an array of spices and medicinal plants found in the little house gardens accompanying almost every house in the area. The people also raise pigs and "cuyes" (guinea pigs, a delicacy).
The agricultural and meat and milk products from ranching serve for local consumption but more importantly for sale on the outside markets of Gualaquiza, Loja, and Cuenca.
The fertility of the land comes from the fact that it is floodplain, which in Amazonia is almost always and area of richer soils than in the surrounding forest lands, and from nearby volcanic activity, characterized by the presence of a cinder cone around which the mud is an obscure dark-brown to black in color.
Both colono and Shuar ranch and cultivate the land and supplement their incomes through such activities as panning for gold in the rio Bomboiza and hunting in the forested hills around the valley for animal skins (jaguar, snakes, etc). The people, especially the colonos, are very proud of their efforts to colonize the land, clear the forests, and establish agriculture and were enthusiastic about showing me around their properties. Despite this, their faces clearly showed the worried look of losing it all to a gold-mining concession.
further claims that its presence will provide jobs, livelihood, and pride to what it claims is an economically- depressed area with heavy out-migration, including some people who "...wish to travel to the United States." The company sees its efforts as a move towards the 21st Century and all opposition as being led by "subversives" and political opportunists.
One of the principal figures in the struggle is Edmundo Orellana, president of the Comite pro-Defensa. His primary concerns, which are shared by the local peasants who know their lands, are the incompatibility of the land to this kind of digging activity, the richness of the land in question, and the enormous environmental impact this exploitation would leave behind.
Edmundo is correct that the concession land resembles more a soggy sponge than anything else. My own photo session going through Mercedes Molina lands sent water gushing down my knee-high rubber boots. The Bomboiza river is notorious for flooding its banks, changing from a peaceful river to a raging torrent overnight when it rains in the highlands. When this happens the river leaves behind fertile, thick and muddy deposits right on top of the plantations. I even saw cow fields a significant distance away from the river that were flooded. People fear that the river will take advantage of any major digging activity and erode large portions of utilized land, a process already in motion somewhat as the river twists and turns unpredictably along its course and floods new areas on a monthly basis. IERAC has stated that the co. could cause "damage of incalculable proportions" by digging on this land.
The richness of the soil has supported Shuar native peoples and more recently colonos for many generations. The older men in Mercedes Molina were proud to show me that their sons and daughters were in Gualaquiza or Cuenca studying while hired labor worked the land, showing that there has been a rise in socioeconomic levels since the harsh days of settlement and deforestation. The area is frequently mentioned as the most productive in the county and one of the most productive in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The entire valley where the concession lies is electrified. The parroquia of Mercedes Molina is building a sewage/drainage system. The Shuar centros are also model communities with communal meeting houses, soccer fields, and basketball courts. Their is also the presence of the Salesian mission in Bomboiza which now focuses on educating both Shuar and colono children. The only major development-area in the sector that is mysteriously missed by the concession is the military base and landing strip near Gualaquiza. All this is important information because ANTEMIN, as will be discussed below, has been intent on presenting this valley and its peoples as miserable, poor peasants desparate for the arrival of outside infrastructure and industry. More than anything, as I talked to the people, they are desparate to hold on to their way of life and to the peaceful, friendly atmosphere that seems to reign over this beautiful, lush valley.
Perhaps most ironic in the government's decision to grant this concession which, perhaps due to inadequate geographical information, ended-up falling on top of a thriving community, is the fact that the MAG (Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia) has itself been involved in agricultural projects in the region to improve yields and prevent negative environmental impacts. For example, the MAG is presently working to re-forest the river's edge to prevent erosion, and I have a photo of the sign proudly describing the cooperative effort on the part of the gov: right flat in the concession area. The mining of this land would completely ruin these efforts as well as do away with the large trees that always remain in these inhabited areas, causing massive erosion.
1). The technical nature of the language of the text makes it all but impossible for people without an extensive educational background to understand. This way the company cleverly disguises statements that would otherwise spawn laughter and anger on the part of the residents.
2). The text is full of contradictions. Example:
(p.20) "It must be pointed out that the [agropecuario] activity of the communities of natives (Shuar) and colonos, is the principal cause of the deterioration of the [river] waters, especially with the presence of organic materials and wastes involved in the ranching practiced in this sector, and with agricultural activities with the application of insecticides, fungicides, etc..."
(p.39) "In the maize cultures were observed lepidopterae larvas and coleopterae adults [beetles] leaving in evidence the lack of fitosanitary treatments [insecticides, fungicides, etc...] on the part of the inhabitants of this sector."
3). The text contains numerous distortions of facts, some truly outrageous. If this document is the determining factor for permission to operate, than the company should not be alllowed to do so. Consider the following: (p.34) "There are no swampy or semi-swampy areas [in the concession]." I myself have pictures of flooded banana groves, flooded pastures, and flooded foot-trails. When I asked the local inhabitants if this was common, they said that it was and that this helped to fertilize their fields. Therefore, it seems to me that frequently flooded land is semi-swampy, at least.
(p.11) "In general the soils and rocks present a moderate reaction to erosion." I don't know which soils and rocks they analysed, but my wanderings through the concession revealed large landslides where people had extracted mineral for road gravel, a road slowly crumbling into the Bomboiza river, and a bridge which the locals assured me constantly needs reinforcement of its foundations with big blocks of rocks held together by wiring because the river erodes them away. The local people also complained to me that the river "eats" their lands little by little.
(p.25) The Shuar live off "hunting and fishing" whereas the colonos live off agriculture and ranching. This is completely wrong. Any specialist will confirm that the Shuar in the area (west of the Cordillera del Condor) have adopted similar forms of resource extraction as the colonos: they grow a variety of crops, and they ranch "ganado". This was a mehod of securing their land in the face of colonization from the highlands.
They often retain a portion of their land in the form of forest to hunt and fish, as well as enjoy for its freshness and beauty during the hot afternoons. They perhaps do not farm and ranch as intensively as the colonos, but to claim that they live of fishing and hunting is simply wrong. Anyway, the same document goes on to claim that because of the lack of controls their is little hunting and fishing to be done in the area; clearly, they contradict themselves here.
(p.50) The company claims the area of the concession includes 29 families with a total of 203 inhabitants, 48% of which are economically active. The MAG (Ministry of Agriculture and Ranching) puts the population at 1500. I believe the population is above 2,000, as in the assembly alone several hundred persons were present. Other estimates have placed the population at several thousand. Lastly, the claim that 48% of the population is economically active must be elaborated because many Shuar and colonos are involved in secondary economic activities such as panning and hunting. Some also work temporarily as laborers in outside areas. None of this is mentioned in the text. The claim is invalid.
(p.52) "In summary, the inadequate agricultural structure and the lack of means of production, have determined an economic and social situation that is diferent [?], so that the campesino sees himself forced to migrate and also some people wish to travel to the United States." I cannot understand how the agricultural structure is inadequate if everyone I consult assures me this is one of the most productive areas in the Ecuadorean Amazon. The area pumps its goods into city markets in Gualaquiza, Cuenca, and Loja. As for the economic and social situation, I saw no misery during my visit. The communities were clean, thriving, and growing. I asked the Shuar if there were many conflicts with the colonos, and they all stated that those days were over: land holdings are set, titled, and respected. There is inter-marriage between them.
Thus, we are dealing with a thriving multi-cultural community with schools (including the bilingual school of the Salesian mission), health centers, playgrounds, soccer fields, etc...
(p.38) "...there doesn't exist a type of particular [social] organization as the inhabitants belong to organizations with headquarters at the parroquial and county level such as:
- Agro-Ranching Center
- Shuar Centers
- Parroquial Juntas
- Bomboiza Vall
ey Defense Front [Committee for the Defense of the Valley of Bomboiza]"
This is an attempt on the part of the company to present the local population as disorganized. My analysis revealed that many local organizations exist, such as the Shuar centers; first local organizations, with local assemblies etc..., and only second as members of the bigger Federation Shuar-Achuar.
Mercedes Molina also has a municipal council and other local organizations, all misteriously missed by the company. Notice also how the company distorts the names of the organizations: "Bomboiza Valley Defense Front." This makes it sound like a leftist guerrilla operation- All it is is an inter-ethnic coalition of concerned citizens who do not want to see their land turned into a lunar landscape. But this comes as no surprise; I've seen the documents where the company accuses many of its opponents of being subversives, politial opportunists.
4). The company's plans for operation would spell a social disaster for the local population. Consider its planned work schedule:
- 1 shift per day
- 10 hours per day
- 360 days per year
Anyone who has traveled in rural Amazonian Ecuador will simpathize with the fact that this is completely incompatible with the people's habitual working rythms and customs. This schedule might do well on the East Coast of the U.S., but not in Bomboiza Ecuador. The people know this and expressed their fear to me that the company would bring delinquancy and profit for bars and "discotecas" in Gualaquiza, as happened in the northern Oriente (see Joe Kane's articles in the New Yorker).
The people want to maintain the peaceful working conditions of a rural community.
There are also two huge, old and rusty processing machine-parts; what looks like the tank where the sediments were "washed". The river's edge is destroyed over a stretch of about 500 meters. The lagoon's contamination emptys slowly into the Yacuambi river, where further down many families use the water for drinking, bathing, and washing clothes.
Fundacion Arco Iris says the following about the site:
1). Non-observance of the Plan of Vigilence and Control of Environmental Impacts on the part of the invlolved institutions
2). Destruction of the Yacuambi river edge
3). Total disappearance of agricultural and ranching terrains [due to erosion]
4). Sediment and toxin contamination of the Yacuambi River
5). Deforestation of the river's edge
6). Social problems as evidenced by the division of the community [Today Kurintz is a non-federated Shuar village; alot of conflict has ensued from this]
7). Deceit on the part of the company manifested through the accords assuring community support of the Shuar and Saraguro Indian populations
As this gold-mining concession employed extraction methods similar to those promised by ANTEMIN, and as the result was desasterous socially, economically, and environmentally, the much larger concession of "La Misionera" must not be allowed to be exploited as this would in all likelyhood result in the same destruction of community as in "La Saquea". Harvey Marlin must be stopped-
For example, the company has already paid several families in its own concession for their land, in order to have a base on which to place heavy machinery. The company also claims to have achieved "Shuar cooperation" from the Shuar centro of "Yuma". The Federation assures me that no such centro exists.
Rather, we are dealing with a Shuar family that was "un-federated" following a conflict with the Federation Shuar for which I have no details. In any case, as I have seen elsewhere, the company exploits local conflicts and makes deals with somewhat "marginal" individuals, later claiming to have reached an "accord" with the community.
ANTEMIN has also stepped completely outside the ring and denounced the vice-president of the Committee for the Defense of the Valley of Bomboiza, prof. Daniel Erazo, for non-compliance with his responsibilities as Supervisor of Education of Gualaquiza county. The people in the assembly I attended claim that ANTEMIN forged 150 signatures for a document claiming that Erazo was active in a local political campaign for "Izquierda Democratica" [Democratic Left] and that he was not teaching in the area stated in his contract. Prof. Erazo was temporarily suspended from his post by the Provincial Director of Education. The people claim that this is all a pack of lies. True or false, it nevertheless reveals the filthy methods Harvey Marlin and ANTEMIN are willing to employ in order to exploit this community's lands.
Yet it does not stop there. The company has been actively accusing its opponents of being dangerous subversives and political opportunists. Consider:
"We warn of the presence of Edmundo Orellana, candidate for the next elections representing the party of "Izquierda Democratica" and president of a Committee of Defense [sic] for the Valley of Bomboiza, opportunistically organized, having tacticts of oppression, death threats for with [sic] the people of the area if any colaborated or allowed any person belonging to the company [sic]."
"Neverthless, despite that the government has all the good intentions of creating an environment of progress and incorporation to the 21st century, we have found ourselves with forces of political and personal ambitions that want to apply their own law and have no remorse whatsoever in poisoning of [sic] the fragil and hopeless minds of the poor people who feel abandoned by the government of the capital." Again, this is completely false. I have met and interviewed Edmundo Orellana. He is a sensitive, intelligent man who is concerned about the community. He has worked to gain the support of both the colono and Shuar population. During the assembly I attended in Bomboiza, he suggested that the presidency of the committee be given to the president of the Association of Bomboiza, who would then be linked to the powerful Federation Shuar-Achuar. The Shuar and colono audience unanimously voted to keep Edmundo Orellana as president because he is a good and agile leader. Could this have been the case if he used tactics of oppression and death threats? Would the Shuar, who are supported by an established organization, and who have a history of staunch resistance to colonization and domination, let themselves be threatened and oppressed by a colono leader? Again, this reveals the unfair and erroneous campaign Harvey Marlin and ANTEMIN have been leading in this community.
The company has gone as far as sending a camouflaged individual unknown to the community to do the dirty work of buying out fincas and registering "legally" its exploitation title.
The company has accused the local peasants of being involved in an "illicit agriculture [coca]" and that this was the reason that they didn't want the company to enter.
Harvey Marlin further writes:
"Now it seems we are in the last stages of this nightmare, and we only want judicial and military protection to be able to transport our equipment to our property without any hangups, opposition, or destruction. For this we have demanded ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT, sending letters for protection to
- Ministry of Defense
- Ministry of the Government
- Ministry of Energy and Mining
- Civil Defense"
Thus, here we see plainly that ANTEMIN is willing to use the military to enter its concession; so much for its supposed philanthropic interests. It is hard to believe that Marlin is willing to use the military against the people in a country not his own! Can we imagine the U.S. military clearing the people out of a community in say, rural Wisconsin, so that a foreign concession buyer from say, Ecuador, could extract the gold from the soils underneath?
Obviously, much more needs to be said. I tried getting accurate sensus data on the population in the area of the concession. I tried getting interviews with some of the representatives but couldn't because of time and isolation. I also had to be extremely careful as the area has a large military base and Harvey Marlin would not hesitate one second in denouncing me to the government as a foreign agitator to get me expulsed from the country. With that said, let me further suggest how those who wish to do so can help in stopping this mining company in a peaceful way, before the matter reaches the stage of confrontations.
1. Email me information on ANTEMIN or Harvey Marlin and previous mining activities; if these turn out to be examples of bad mining, we (the Federation Shuar-Achuar and I) can use this info to convince the Ecuadorean gov. to nulify the concession.
2. Suggest email (mail is slow and unreliable here) connections with people with experience, influence, or an interest in helping with info-spreading in the States.
3. Writes letters (or send fax) to the following organizations:
ANTEMIN CIA. LTDA.
547 JUAN LEON MERA
QUITO - ECUADOR
PHONE: 525-909 FAX: 526-089 (These may be wrong) ARQ. SIXTO DURAN BALLEN (accent "a" of Duran, "e" of Ballen) PRESIDENCIA
GARCIA MORENO 1043 Y CHILE
QUITO - ECUADOR
DR. FRANCISCO ACOSTA COLOMA
MINISTRO DE ENERGIA Y MINAS
SANTA PRISCA NO. 223 Y MANUEL LARREA
QUITO - ECUADOR
It's not imperative but would be appreciated if you could send copies of your letter(s) to the Federation Shuar-Achuar:
Federacio Interprovincial de Centros Shuar-Achuar Tarqui 809
Quito - Ecuador
4). Send this ready-made letter in Spanish to the above addresses:
Sixto Duran Ballen
PRESIDENTE CONSTITUCIONAL DE LA REPUBLICA DEL ECUADOR QUITO
De mi consideracion:
Extiendo un cordial y fraterno saludo a Usted con el unico proposito de manifestar mi preocupacion en torno al problema de minas en el canton Gualaquiza, Provincia de Morona Santiago.
Conocemos que la Asociacion Shuar de Bomboiza ha resuelto lo siguiente: a) Que el Gobierno Nacional, por medio del Ministerio de Energia y Minas, deje insubsistente la concesion de 1250 hectareas, otorgada primero a la compania "La Misionera" y ahora de "Antemin Compania Minera de los Andes Cia. Ltda." b). No permitir el ingreso de la compania para explotar minas de oro en el lugar de la concesion, porque: - Causara un impacto socioambiental negativo, como se dio en la concesion de "La Saquea" en el Rio Yacuambi.
- Existen asentamientos tradicionales (comunales) de la poblacion shuar, y asentamientos colonos en el area de la concesion. El IERAC establece poblacion a mas de 1500 personas.
- Existe ya una explotacion artesanal de las minas que ayudan en el sostenimiento de la gente local y no causa impactos ambientales negativos.
- El area de la concesion fue declarada como de "alta produccion y productividad agricola," lo que permite que abastesca los mercados de Gualaquiza, Cuenca, Loja, y Zamora.
Cualquier actividad minera de grande escala destruiria esta industria agricola, teniendo efectos negativos al nivel inter-provincial.
En vista a esto solicitamos a Usted muy respectuosamente, levante y deje insubsistente la concesion minera porque existiran resultados muy negativos en la poblacion y el medio ambiente, y aquello no significa adelanto para el pais, sino mas bien un atentado contra los derechos inalienables del Pueblo ecuatoriano y de toda la humanidad.
En espera de que nuestra preocupacion sea acogida, me suscribo de Usted.
Co: Ministerio de Energia y minas Co: Antemin Cia. Ltda.
Co: Federacion Shuar-Achuar