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Mining giant Codelco's activity in Ecuadorian cloud forest could be suspended

After a report by Ecuador's Comptroller's Office found serious violations of environmental laws and regulations, Codelco is facing possible termination of its Llurimagua mining project in Intag, Ecuador.

The Comptroller's report

A reading of the draft report containing the preliminary results of the examination into the Llurimagua mining project was attended by nine members of the Intag community. One of whom was anti-mining activist and environmentalist Carlos Zorrilla who said that it was "appalling to see how many laws were violated, it was very shocking."

According to the Comptroller's report, Codelco's negligence meant that the proper steps to identify environmental risks, threats to food and nutrition and presence of heavy metals in the water were not taken.

The Chilean state-owned mining company would have failed to present an annual report of activities and the annual investment programme. The mining project was set to be carried out in a joint venture with Ecuadorian mining company Enami but the report shows mining activity would have been undertaken before having the necessary environmental license.

Regarding the local water resources, it was determined that a study approved by the Ministry of Environment (MAE), does not contain real flows of the Junín River and the Chiriyacu Stream. In addition, it was indicated that these studies did not identify the state of water and soil prior to the execution of the project.

The Comptroller's Office also points out that native trees were felled and a plan was not drawn up that contemplates guidelines for the conservation of the micro-basin. As a consequence, the mitigation and prevention measures considered in the environmental management plan were not applied in order to conserve the flora, fauna and water sources.

What next?

The auditors of the General Comptroller of the State, said that the draft of the report that was read yesterday, is a document that does not constitute an official or definitive pronouncement of the Comptroller's Office. According to the Regulations of the Organic Law of the Comptroller General of the State, any explanatory information or supporting documents that the assistants or those related to the examination, wish to present, they should do it within five days.

The Comptroller's Report comes days after the catastrophic dam collapse in Minas Gerais, Brazil after mining company Vale ignored the potential environmental risks of the iron-ore mining activity in Brumadinho.

In an interview with Rainforest Concern, Carlos Zorrilla states "The Comptroller's report, if anything, highlights the complete lack of capacity or willingness to regulate, control and oversee mining activities in Ecuador."

"This lack of oversight renders it impossible for any meaningful measures to be taken by the Ecuadorian state to regulate and control mining in the country."

"More rigorous measures are crucial in order to mitigate the impacts on Intag's primary forests and its hundreds of species facing extinction, plus protect the more than 40 community's watershed and forest reserves which Rainforest Concern has helped create throughout the years."