DECOIN, Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag (Intag Defense and Environmental Conservation) began in 1995 as a grass-roots organization formed to confront the mining threat in Junin. It was formed, and still continues to be constituted by, men and women living in the Intag region, and works closely with communities, and community organizations. The organization has since greatly expanded its work, and primarily works in four areas: Direct Conservation, Sustainable Development, Environmental Education, and Anti-Mining Work.
In the past 3 months or so, Ascendant Copper has drastically changed its tactics in dealing with DECOIN. Prior to that, that strategy was characterized by casual references to the organization and portraying DECOIN as practically the sole, but minor, source of the resistance to its Junin copper project. In essence, I believe the objective was to create a false and misleading impression that the project didn’t face any real local opposition besides the "few extremist" belonging to DECOIN, in order to calm Ascendant’s investors. Although the company’s objective of distorting the true nature of its opposition remains the same, the tactics have demonstratively changed.
It is suspect, to say the least, that the company has not mentioned the organized and radicalized opposition by all of Intag’s Parish Governments (equivalent to small municipalities). It has also not fully disclosed the depth and grave implications of the Cotacachi County government opposition, which only grows with the passing of time, not to mention its extension to other sectors of Cotacachi’s civil society. This makes sense only if Ascendant’s objective was keeping this injurious information from Canadian regulators and its stockholders, when it is widely known that firm local opposition is the death of any extractive project. The company can escape this very harmful situation by purposely creating the false illusion that DECOIN is the only, or principal, organization leading the opposition to its Junin mining project.
This is the context which may explain why Ascendant is going out of its way to demonize our organization, with frontal attacks that border on the libelous and absurd. To illustrate:
Recent Ascendant claims or insinuations:
DECOIN members are responsible for instigating violence: Published statement made by Ascendant’s new Community Relations chief to a provincial newspaper on 15 September 2006. This is in reference to the violent confrontation that took place between pro, and anti-mining groups on the 13 th of September, which begun a few days later by the citizen’s arrest of Ascendant employees found in communal lands.
Fact: Eye-witnesses and photographic evidence point to Ascendant employees being responsible for this particular violent incident, when they tried to go into the community of Junin to occupy a piece of land it says belongs to the company, at time of extreme tension. Such a provocation was not, in my eyes, an accident, but well thought out. Given the circumstances at the time, there is little doubt such a provocation would generate the result it did.
DECOIN’s the Mastermind of Local Opposition: On now two occasions Ascendant has tried, unsuccessfully, to implicate DECOIN’s Executive Director, Carlos Zorrilla, in direct measures taken by communities against the mining company, by saying, or implying, he was the mastermind behind these acts. These include the torching of Ascendant’s mining camp in December of 2005- in which over 300 community members assumed responsibility- and the more recent citizen’s arrest by nearly sixty community members of company employees. In the first attempt, the District Attorney did not file charges; the second it too absurd to even comment on.
DECOIN is an Extremist Organization: Implied in Ascendant’s Sept. 18 news release, signed off by Ascendant president and CEO Gary Davis. The basis for this allegation was the use of the word "ceremony" by DECOIN to describe the Sept.16 public event where two Ascendant employees who had been held by community members were freed.
The news release also used the term eco-terrorist in reference to the actions taken days before by dozens of community members to capture Ascendant employees accused of trespassing community land, and of being armed. As a result, two of the company’s employees were held for several days by community members. Though Mr. Gary Davis did not directly accuse DECOIN of being eco-terrorists, or being involved in such activities, there is no doubt that is what the news release implied
Aug. 2 Letter: Mr. Gary Davis sent me a six-page letter in which, at one point, he expressed his concern that DECOIN was encouraging the use of violence. This was mainly in reference to my predicting that if Ascendant was to go into the Junin area by force, it would result in violence and possible loss of life. I think the events of September 13th demonstrate the soundness of that prediction. And while it is clear that the statement was not meant to encourage the use of violence, Davis used it to advance one more step in Ascendant’s plan demonize our organization and make us out to be something we are not.
In this section of the letter he mentions other supposed statements by DECOIN implying the same encouragement to the use of violence, but offering no hard proofs beyond references to DECOIN press releases, which imply no such thing.
In the past 30 months of Ascendant’ s existence (both as Exploration and Corporation), the company, its employees, or organizations it has hired or funded have been responsible for a number of documented violent acts, and instigations to violent activities. These include:
In April 2005 Intag residents were bussed to the site with Ascendant funding to hypothetically support Ascendant’s activities in Intag, but which resulted in the violent storming of the Municipality of Cotacachi. This event was filmed.
Several (failed) attempts to gain entry into land held by and managed by the community of Junin after being repeatedly told company officials were not wanted in the area. The last such attempt resulted in the citizen’s arrests mentioned above.
Violence perpetrated by Ascendant Exploration-hired bodyguards in García Moreno Parish.
Ascendant Corporation bodyguards threatening locals opposed to the mining company (the security firm responsible is no longer in the area)
The presence of armed personnel in the area falsely pretending to be Army Corps of Engineers members, supposedly working on road construction projects with the company (The Army Corps later stated that none of its members were sent to Intag, though they had been in conversations with Ascendant about the road building)
And, more recently, the Sept. 13 failed attempt by the company to gain entry to a piece of land in the community of Junin, at a time of extreme tension in the area.
For more information about DECOIN and the mining struggle visit www.decoin.org.