President Correa declares us “infantile” for questioning his vision of Eco-friendly sustainable growth through mineral exploitation in Ecuador. Are We?
In an interview with New Left Review, President Correa said: “It is madness to say no to natural resources, which is what some of the left is proposing – no to oil, no to mining, no to hydropower, no to roads. This is an infantile left, which can only legitimize the right …. We can not lose sight of the fact that the main objective of a country such as Ecuador is to eliminate poverty. And for that we need (to exploit) our natural resources. ”
A comparison of the Hindustan Copper Limited open pit copper mine, Malanjkhand Copper Mine operating in Madhya Pradesh in India, and the Mirador copper mine at the headwaters of the Amazon River, is alarming.
I believe the Mirador Open Pit Copper Mine, in the headwaters of the Amazon in Ecuador, will be much more damaging than the Malanjkhand open pit copper mine in India.
There are many similarities between the two mines. Size is the big difference. Mirador mine is 10 times larger.
The Malanjkhad mine at present is processing 2 million tons of rock “ore” per year, at the rate of 5,500 tons of “ore” per day. The Mirador Mine will mine 22 million tons of rock “ore” per year, processing a total of 60,000 tons of “ore” per day.
Article 51A of the Indian Constitution says: “It should be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the national environment, including forests, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for all living creatures ”
In Ecuador, the Rights of Nature are enshrined in the 2008 Constitution. Quite a similarity!
The Malanjkhand mine has been operating since 1982. The environmental consequences of this mine have been written up by the Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering al Bhilai Institute of Technology. The report published by the Environmental Geochem Health in 2007 states that:
“The extent of damage to the environment is so high that it can be termed as criminal negligence.”
This report ought to serve as a warning to President Correa of Ecuador, who accuses those who oppose his mining “initiative” as being “infantile”!
The tailings dam at the Malanjkhand copper mine has been “leaching” heavy metals. Molybdenum, nickel, zinc, lead and arsenic have leached into the groundwater and have turned aquifers acidic.
A similar situation in the Mirador Mine is more than likely. Remember the Mirador Mine will be mining 10 times more ore than the Malajkhand mine every day.
The effects of the Malanjkhand mine leaching heavy metals on the surrounding environment are easily measurable. Five years ago, people from neighboring villages used to harvest 1,500 kg to 2,000 kg of rice per hectare. (0.4 ha). Here is a quote from the villagers: “Now we barely harvest 300-500 kg per hectare, despite using more fertilizers.”
These poisons are not only affecting crop yields, but also human life. A study by Vikas Samvad has shown that the life expectancy for villagers around the mine has dropped from 80 years of life a few decades ago, to a present average of only 55 years.
Forest guard Kalhan Singh from Chindi Tola has said that until 2006 the groundwater remained clean. The acidic mine waste has now contaminated local aquifers. The company has begun providing twice weekly tanker deliveries of water to 10 villages with a total of 1,500 people affected by the poisoned water supplies.
In September last year the residents of 10 villages near the mine staged protests at the nearby Mukki gate of Kanha National Park. They “protested” for 35 days demanding safe drinking water and compensation to 410 farmers affected by lower production yields. The Balaghat district administration asked the Regional Science Laboratory (RSL) of Jabalpur to make a study of the land. The RSL confirmed the presence of acid and heavy metals in the fields.
Researchers have found traces of heavy metals in the nearby Banjar river that flows through Kanha National Park.
The Mirador Mine will be enormous, with mining started at an altitude of 800 meters, mining an open pit down to levels below sea level in an area of more than 200 water sources. The runoff from rainfall of two and a half tons per square meter per year will be enormous, hydrology will be changed, forests will die, fish, mammals and birds will also die, the groundwater will be polluted, lifestyle and culture will be destroyed, and lands will be poisoned.
Are we, in the words of President Correa, “infantile” when we care about our shared heritage, and question his declarations of eco-friendly sustainable growth? Are we?
David Dene, March 2013
Ecologist, Research, and Co-Founder of Protect Ecuador
Sign our petition on Avaaz.com at http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_The_Mirador_Open_Pit_Copper_and_Gold_Mine_in_The_Head_Waters_of_The_River_Amazon/?fSJdoeb&pv=1