Mining plans in Ecuador face indigenous backlash

Mediaworks reports hundreds of indigenous people in Ecuador opposed to planned mining projects are marching towards the country's capital of Quito. There have already been clashes with police and criminal charges laid.

The marchers, led by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, say the 10% royalties on mining that contracts specify should benefit local communities will not be enough to compensate for harm done to Amazon forests and important watersheds:

"The activists point to the damage oil drilling has done to Ecuador's northern jungles, resulting in last year's $US17.8 billion judgment against Chevron Corp."

Ecuador’s government and Canada’s Kinross Gold could sign an agreement in June to develop the long-delayed “Fruta del Norte” gold project, the country’s largest mine.

On March 2, Chinese-owned mining company Ecuacorriente signed a contract to invest US$1.4 billion over five years for extracting copper in country’s southern Amazon.

The deal was the first of its kind in Ecuador, which has no large-scale mining to speak of.

The government of leftist President Rafael Correa sees mining as a way to counter-balance the impact on the economy of oil, which accounts for more than 50% of the country’s exports.

Contracts for several other high-profile deposits, requiring a total investment of more than US$3 billion, could be signed by the end of the first quarter once the issue of royalty payments is resolved.

Projects up for negotiations include China’s Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group for the Mirador and San Carlos copper deposits, Canada’s International Minerals (TSE:IMZ) for the Rio Blanco gold mine and IAMGold’s (TSE:IMG) Quimsacocha gold-copper-silver mine.