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Cotacachi has protected its environmental concerns and vigorously resisted copper mining in the Intag cloud forest, of Western Ecuador for nearly two decades.

Yet regularly I hear from readers who say they will never move to Cotacachi because of the mining.

There are always two sides to every story…especially when it comes to mining, but here is the Cotacachi environmental side of the story.

Cotacachi is resisting copper mining plans by Ascendant Copper Corporation which plans to mine in an environmentally protected part of Intag, a community-owned nature reserve that forms the last  remaining portion of the Intag cloud forest, home to many organic farmers and endangered species.

The Cotacachi and Intag forests offer many outdoor activities. Here is Steve, our man in Cotacachi, white water rafting there.


Cotacachi clams that Ascendant is trying to undermine the local communities’ attempt to develop the area in a positive ecological and environmental way.

Cotacachi has also claimed that Ascendant acquired the mining rights illegally and that there has been intimidation, harassment and even death threats of local residents who have resisted.

Ascendant Copper acquired in 2004 the rights to mine for copper in a part of the Intag cloud forest that is an ancient  mountain range that forms a natural border between Intag and the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Environmental Reserve.

It is the largest environmentally protected area in western Ecuador and is home to the endangered spectacled bears, howler monkeys, pumas, jaguar and endangered brown-headed spider monkey.

Here is Steve, hiking in the environment.


18,000 farmers  also live there.   The copper mine would be in a community-owned environmentally protected nature reserve that  local communities and organizations have been working to protect

Gary E. Davis, President and CEO of Ascendant with headquarters in Lakewood Colorado said: “We are confident that Ecuador will grow to be one of the world’s great copper districts.”

Then he says “Every project has its naysayers.”

In this case the naysayers are serious. They have been fighting mining in Intag since 1991.  Just last December approximately 70 local mining opponents burnt down one of the company’s buildings.  300 people claimed  responsibility for a community meeting where all voted to burn the building as an act of protest.   All seven local Parish government presidents Cotacachi have signed a petition asking for  a five year moratorium on all mining activities in Intag.

The ethics of the Environmental Impact Study are being questioned.  The legality of the concession is also questioned as the State violated the constitutional rights of local residents by not consulting them prior to the transaction.

This battle began clear back in the early 1990s when a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation.

Mitsubishi left a few years later due to the strong community resistance.

These Cotacachi communities have been working with local organizations
to establish alternative forms of development, including an organic, shade-grown coffee cooperative, a community-run ecotourist project,
and 15 community based ecological reserves that protect local watersheds and the area’s endangered biodiversity.

Cotacachi which includes Intag, was declared an Ecological County by its own municipal government in 2000.  This legally binding Municipal Ecological Ordinance, seeks to aim Cotacachi development towards
sustainable activities.

The battle continues and locals have told of intimidation and harassment by mining proponents, including smear campaigns, death
threats, assaults, and police raids.

Violence increased in August 2007 when there was a  series of attacks against anti-mining activists.  The UN office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights is investigating allegations that mining proponents are targeting Ascendant’s critics in order to stifle opposition.
In August 2007, Ecuador’s president called for a special assembly to review national policies, including its mining policy. The following month, the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum  ordered Ascendant to suspend activities in Junín, arguing that the company had violated mining regulations.

This has led other readers to complain in another way.

One reader wrote:

“Gee, Gary…I haven’t seen any mention of the Ecuadorian government’s trashing of all their mining agreements and concessions with over 50 mining companies.

“I know several groups who manage companies down there, and there’s going to be a major exodus, along with about 4,000 mining jobs for locals.  Peru will stand to pick up any economic benefits from this rather foolish move on some companies that have put millions into development there with agreements from the government, which has now quashed them for re-negotiations.

“Seems that Ecuador is a left wing country after all.  What’s up, do you only
report on good news???”

So it seems that one cannot win…no matter which way the coin is flipped.

In this case it appears that both the miners and supporters of the environment are ill informed. The dispute has yet to be settled.

From what I can see, I lean with the people of Cotacachi.  This environmental concern is something the people obviously do not want.  The mines would bring in money yes…but for how long?

This problem was summed up in a May 12, 2008 Time Magazine article entitled “Gem of an Idea” by Alex Perry that said if there is a formula for foreign companies operating in extractive industries, it has been this: Pay the government millions of dollars for concession rights; dig, pump, pick or chop what you seek; and export. Don’t worry too much about the country or the people.”

Cotacachi based, environmentally protected, sustainable projects will probably do more for the people…more for employment and ore for the earth.  That does not seem left wing to me?

Here is Steve climbing a water fall in the Intag environment…an activity that attracts tourists and creates employment.

What a dilemma!  We wants goods and products…things made from minerals like copper and steel and iron. Plus we want wood…yet we want a clean environment as well.  So what should we do?

Both sides of the picture offer opportunity. Let’s look for a solution with balance that is good for the economy, the people and the environment


Join us in Cotacachi or the Blue Ridge.

May 13-17 Ecuador Import Export Course

May 23-25 International Investing and Business Made EZ North Carolina

June 6-9  Ecuador Coast & Quito Real Estate Tour

June 11-15 Ecuador Spanish Course

June 16-17 Imbabura Real Estate Tour

June 19-21 Shamanic Mingo Tour

See discounts for attending more than one June course.