UN Probes Attacks Against Ascendant Copper Critic

The United Nations’ Human Rights body is investigating allegations that supporters of Canada’s Ascendant Copper framed local critic Carlos Zorrilla.

Zorrilla, a member of Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag (DECOIN), a local environmental NGO, was accused of assaulting and robbing an American woman who was handing out pro-mining propaganda at an anti-mining demonstration in Quito in July.

The Ecuadorian police, some clad in ski masks and heavily armed, raided Zorrilla’s home on Oct. 17 and planted a gun and a bag of drugs in his house. Zorrilla went into hiding after being tipped off about the raid.

Ascendant’s president Gary E. Davis rejected claims that Leslie Brooke Chaplin, of Arizona, who filed the complaint against Zorrilla, worked for the company. He told CanWest News Service that, "A lot of people are pro-mining in Ecuador," explaining why she would be handing out the literature. But Chaplin isn’t Ecuadorian, while most people in Ecuador, especially in Intag where the company wants to build a massive copper mine, are anti-mining.

The company was recently ordered by the Ecuadorian government to stop all mining activities after the Ministry of Energy and Mines determined that Ascendant failed to consult local communities when composing its Environmental Impact Study.