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Ecuador's mining halt.

ECUADOR'S MINING INDUSTRY came to a grinding halt in April, when the Ecuadorian Constitutional Assembly passed a Mining Mandate canceling nearly all existing mining concessions.

The Mandate recalls all concessions for which no consultation took place with nearby communities or for which no environmental impact study was undertaken. It also canceled concessions that were granted in "natural protected areas" or which may affect water supplies. These, along with other requirements, resulted in the cancellation of nearly 90 percent of the concessions.

"We celebrate this truly amazing victory of right over might and believe that it will lead to an Ecuador free of large- and medium-scale metal mining in the near future," says Carlos Zorilla, of DECOIN (Defense and Ecological Conservation of Intag), an environmental group that has heavily campaigned against mining in Ecuador.

The Mandate was passed to give the Ecuadorian government time to write new mining legislation, which will include a national mining company, higher royalties and more stringent environmental laws.

Representatives from several mining companies met with Ecuador's President, Rafael Correa, to discuss Ecuador's future mining laws. "The companies welcomed President Correa's repeated statements that responsible mining will go ahead in Ecuador," said the Toronto-based Iamgold Corporation, one of the mining companies that met with Correa, in a written statement.

John Haigh, manager of investor relations for the Lakewood, Colorado-based Ascendant Copper, which lost all of its concessions, says of the Mandate, "From my standpoint, it's very discouraging."

"You've got a country that is very pro-environment," he says. "They don't want to have any mining, they don't want to have any large open pits, they don't want to have any small open pits." Haigh says because of the Mandate, Ascendant has had to fire all of its local workers. "The country itself is not going to do a damn thing to help mining," Haigh says. "We'll have to spend that $100 million in Arizona or New Mexico and not Ecuador."
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Title Annotation:BEHIND THE LINES
Author:Wedekind, Jennifer
Publication:Multinational Monitor
Geographic Code:3ECUD
Date:Jul 1, 2008
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