The Struggle Between Ecuador’s Indigenous Shuar and the Mega-Mining Project That’s Displacing Them

The indigenous Shuar People of the Ecuadorean Amazon are taking action to reclaim homelands. The Shuar say their lands were taken from them without consultation or consent and given to Ecsa Ecuacorriente, a Chinese mining company.

 

Originally published by Remezcla. By Brian Miranda. 23 November 2016.

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In 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize the
rights of nature in its constitution, giving its natural communities and
ecosystems the right to exist and persist. It was a progressive and
unprecedented legal move. But since then, the Ecuadorian government
under Rafael Correa has green lit numerous massive development projects
helmed by Chinese companies, including a controversial copper mining
project in the Amazonian territory of the Indigenous Shuar people.

For years, the Shuar have been fighting to halt the project, called El
Mirador, noting that it would “irreversibly damage the region’s fragile
ecosystem and violate the legal rights of indigenous peoples to live,
develop and control their land and territory,” according to China
Dialogue. And on Monday, the conflict escalated after a group of Shuar
reportedly clashed with police and military troops following attempts to
recover ancestral territory from Chinese mining operations, as reported
by Indigenous leaders and state officials.

Clashes came as Shuar nationals from the Nankints community in the
Amazonian province of Morona Santiago coordinated an incursion into a
mining camp of the Chinese company Ecsa Ecuacorriente at dawn on Monday.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that Indigenous Shuar
participated in an “unexpected armed attack” against the Ecsa camp,
which they say is the “legal landowner.”

Seven police officers were allegedly injured during the Shuar’s
take-over, Interior Minister Diego Fuentes said on his official Twitter
account Tuesday morning.

Fuentes reported, at 12 PM EST on Tuesday, that control over the
territory was restored. Indigenous political leaders in close contact
with Shuars on the ground, however, say clashes still continue.

“The warriors of Nankints continue fighting and the military represses
with brutality,” Severino Sharupi, leader of territories and natural
resources of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador
(Conaie), reported on Twitter.

Shuar leaders said in a press release on Monday that the coordinated
take-over comes as a result of military and police raids that forcibly
evicted 32 Shuars from their land to make room for open-cast pit mining
operations.

“This is why the Shuar Nation takes decisions to expel the company and
to rescue what by right and legitimate position belongs to us,” the
press release stated.

They further urged the military to abstain from violence and called on
other Shuars and Indigenous communities from the Amazon to join them in
solidarity as part of a larger fight against military presence and
state-backed extractivism in the rainforest.

“Our brothers who are there right now have told us that they will fight
until the last consequences,” Marlon Vargas, President of the
Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon
(Confenaie) said at a press conference Tuesday morning.

“If anything were to happen there, any disgrace, to our brothers; the
only responsible one will be the government of (president) Rafael
Correa. We will stand up to fight and we will not desist, whatever the
costs. That’s the decision we’ve made in the Amazon,” Vargas added.

A woman who was evicted from her home in San Marcos on September 30,
2015, searches the location where her house was for belongings. The
location for the Mirador Mine pit is just beyond the nearest ridge in
the distance. Photo by Beth Wald.

Under the San Carlos Panantza copper project, the Ecuadorian government
conceded 41 thousand hectares of land to the Chinese mining company ECSA
for a period of 25 years. The project, which is currently in the
exploration phase, is estimated to deliver around $1200 million USD in
annual profits.

Shuar communities, however, say they were neither informed nor consulted
prior to the forced evictions, which they claim violate their
constitutional rights.

Tensions between Indigenous groups in the Amazon and the national
government have heightened after the same mining project pushed dozens
of families from their land in the Amazonian province of Zamora
Chinchipe in 2015.

Meanwhile in 2014, José Isidro Tendetza Antún, a leader of the Shuar
people in Zamora Chinchipe and prominent activist against Chinese mining
operations, was found dead under unknown circumstances.

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