Cementing Ecuador’s Poverty by Decree
my pro-mining mission to Ecuador weeks ago, I visited the Tres
Chorreras exploration project and witnessed how a single company can
positively impact impoverished villages such as Quinoas, Pucará County,
three hours from the famed Andean city of Cuenca.
One of the locals, Manuel Arcecio Narváez, expressed his gratitude to Atlas Moly S.A.,
a subsidiary of the Canadian firm Atlas Minerals Inc. (TSXV- AMR), for
hiring him for the mule administrator position. “May the Lord repay
them,” he said last February 29th, the day of my visit. [See picture
Atlas’ arrival, Manuel was unemployed with no money to pay for the
education of his son and granddaughter, the latter of whom was left by
her mother who immigrated to the United States due to the obvious lack
of job opportunities.
began drilling in its Tres Chorreras exploration project in December
2007. The company started working earlier in the year to clean up
solid waste left by previous informal, small-scale miners who held the
Tres Chorreras concession before Atlas and who later became
shareholders in Atlas. The firm collected over 22 tons of garbage and
disposed of it in a technically constructed landfill in Cuenca in
accordance with the firm’s Environmental Management Plan.
Canadian company drills using the latest technology available, provided
by the contractor Mountain View Perforaciones. Atlas uses geotextile
liners in their drilling mud sedimentation ponds that filter out
suspended solids before discharging water to the local watercourses.
It has installed an effluent treatment plant for the grey and black
waters resulting from their camp activities. And it keeps its
hardworking employees content with permanent on-site medical attention,
three meals a day in a spotless dining room, impeccable dorms, and hot
and cold running water. All of the employee benefits and amenities –
including a volleyball court – were personally investigated by me, and
all of the employees interviewed attested to the favorable working
conditions Atlas provides.
Photo caption: Graeme Smith, Operations Manager for Atlas, shows one of the geotextile-lined sedimentation ponds in the Tres Chorreras project
Chorreras is only one among dozens of mining exploration projects
operating in the South American country, each of which have provided
job opportunities and economic growth for impoverished forgotten towns
such as Quinoas. Regrettably, all medium- to large-scale mining
operations have just been halted in Ecuador for the next six months,
without exception, following a mandate from the country’s green
NGO-infiltrated Constituent Assembly. Read the decree
a consequence of this mandate, international mining investors have lost
even more of their fragile confidence, and have reduced their firms’
market capitalization to record lows, forcing firms to minimize
expenses in Ecuador and consider new mining frontiers with friendlier
governments. Channel Resources (TSX.V:CHU), for instance, is currently evaluating other projects for acquisition in Canada and Mexico. Read Channel Resources Press Release
Other firms such as Corriente Resources (TSX:CTQ, AMEX:ETQ) and Aurelian Resources (TSX:ARU),
which are in a more advanced exploration phase than other firms, have
taken less defensive tactics and continue trusting in President Rafael
Correa’s pro-mining vision. “We believe that the president’s message
for responsible mining has been consistent over the last six months,”
Corriente CEO and President Ken Shannon said in a press release. Read Corriente Press Release
Elvira Mendieta holding daughter Mayra Cristina, left, welcomes Lance
Hubbard, co-owner of Mountain View Perforaciones. Behind her, Atlas
Operations Manager Graeme Smith watches.
while the Constituent Assembly and President Correa´s divergent
positions regarding mining cause confusion among investors and
companies, Pucara resident Elvira Mendieta, 26, continues hoping that
her husband will keep his job at Tres Chorreras. Her gratitude towards
the Canadian firm is so immense that she selected Graeme Smith, the
Atlas Operations Manager, [behind her, in picture above] to be her
one-year-old daughter Mayra Cristina’s godfather.
and dozens of impoverished Ecuadorian towns acknowledge that “mining is
our only hope,” as described by Manuel Narvaez, the Tres Chorreras’
mule administrator. Will opponents of large-scale mining in the
government and in global NGOs ever echo the Pucarasenses’ sentiments?