Govt suspends Corriente's exploration work, aims to calm protests

Thursday, December 7, 2006

The department of environmental protection at Ecuador's energy and mines ministry (MEM) has halted the exploration activity that Canadian miner Corriente Resources (TSX: CTQ) was carrying out in the country.

More than a response to demands and pressure from communities, the measure aims to reduce tension and conflicts between the community and the company, a MEM press official told BNamericas.

"The president of Ecuador [Alfredo Palacio] said that no mining activity is justified if there are deaths, injuries and attacks," the official added.

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For the last several days communities in the areas of Morona Santiago and Zamora Chinchipe in the country's southeast, where the company is advancing its Mirador gold-copper project, have been protesting against the exploration works, blocking roads and facing off with authorities.

The vice president of Ecuador's mining chamber CME, César Espinosa, said the communities in the mine's zone of influence are not the ones instigating the protests.

"Those communities are pro-mining and I would calculate that 90% of the population is in favor of mining," he stated.

Espinosa stressed that the movement against mining activity over the past several days is basically being directed by international NGOs and activists who oppose mining "in Ecuador and everywhere."

The MEM official agreed. "There is a fairly visible presence of environmentalist groups and that is the problem, that is the heart of the matter," the official added.

According to Espinosa, the demonstrations have turned violent, "which is why we have had to start lawsuits against those who have infringed the law."


Francisco Cevallos, corporate affairs coordinator for Corriente, was quoted by local newspapers as saying the company is willing to accept unconditional mediation and proposed reaching a consensus for a peaceful solution.

Likewise, Espinosa said that the CME is helping companies and communities come together and achieve constructive dialogue.

In his view, the problem arose due to a lack of information about mining, and said the chamber is going ahead with an aggressive campaign to inform the communities "of what the modern, responsible mining that we are promoting really is."


These protests among the communities could spark the withdrawal of investments, scared off by a lack of security in the country, according to CME.

"It is estimated that Ecuador would miss out on US$1.4bn in mining investments in the next three years, as well as another US$50bn from mining in the following 15 years," CME said in a document.

When asked about the issue, Espinosa said: "Yes, there is a risk, there always is, but I believe the companies are already used to this type of movement and they have shown themselves firm in their purpose of carrying out mining activities."

Corriente is in the process of obtaining permits to build an initial 25,000t/d operation at Mirador.

In Ecuador the company also has the Tundayme and Piedra Liza gold concessions that total 6,600ha and are near Mirador, as well as the Panatza and San Carlos copper deposits.