President Correa declares us “infantile”. Are we?

President Correa declares us “infantile”for questioning his vision of Eco-friendly sustainable growth through mineral exploitation in Ecuador. Are We?

In an interview with New Left Review President Correa says, “It is madness to say no to natural resources, which is what part of the left is proposing – no to to oil, no to mining, no to hydroelectric power, no to roads. This is an infantile left, which can only legitimate the right …. We cannot lose sight of the fact that the main objective of a country such as Ecuador is to eliminate poverty. And for that we need (to exploit) our natural resources.”

A comparison of the Hindustan Copper Limited open pit copper mine Malanjkhand Copper Project, operating in Madhya Pradesh in India, and the Mirador Copper Mine in the head waters of The Amazon River is alarming.

Malanjkhand mine – satellite view

I believe that The Mirador Open Pit Copper Mine, in the head Waters of the Amazon, in Ecuador, will be much more damaging than the Malanjkhand Open Pit Copper Mine in India.

There are many similarities between to the two mines. Size is the big difference. The Mirador Mine is 10 times bigger.

The Malanjkhad mine at present mines 2 million tons of rock “ore” per annum at a rate of 5,500 tons of “ore”per day. The Mirador mine will mine 22 million tons of rock “ore” per annum processing 60,000 tons of “ore” per day.

Article 51A of the Indian Constitution says the following: “It should be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the national environment including forests, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for all living creatures”

In Ecuador, the Rights of Nature are enshrined in the Constitution of 2008. Quite a similarity!

The Malanjkhand mine has been operating since 1982. The environmental consequences of this mine have been written up by the Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering at Bhilai Institute of Technology. The report published by Environment Geochem Health in 2007 notes that:

The extent of damage to the environment is so high that it can be termed as criminal negligence,”

This report ought to serve as a warning to President Correa of Ecuador, who accuses those who oppose his mining “initiative” of being “infantile.”

Mining copper, molybdenum and gold from the Malanjkhand mine in India.

The Tailings Dam at the Malanjkhand copper mine has been “leaching” heavy metals. Molybdenum, nickel, zinc, lead and arsenic have “leached” into the ground water and have turned aquifers acidic.

A similar situation at The Mirador Mine is more than likely. Remember The Mirador mine will be mining 10 times more ore than the Malajkhand mine every day.

The effects of the Malanjkhand mine “leaching” on the surrounding environment are easily measurable. Five years ago people in the neighboring villages used to harvest 1,500 kg to 2,000 kg of rice per acre.(0.4 ha).

Here is a quote from the villagers,

Now we barely harvest 300-500 kg per acre, despite using more fertilisers.”

These poisons are not only affecting crop yields, but also human life. A Study by Vikas Samvad has shown that life expectancy for villagers surrounding the mine has dropped from 80 years of life, a few decades ago, to a present average of only 55 years.

Forest guard Kalhan Singh from Chindi Tola has said that until 2006 the groundwater remained clean. The acidic mine waste has now contaminated local aquifers. The company has begun providing twice weekly tanker deliveries of water to 10 villages for a total of 1,500 people affected by the poisoned water supplies.

In September last year the residents of the 10 villages situated close to the mine staged protests at the nearby Mukki gate of Kanha National Park. They “protested” for 35 days demanding safe drinking water and compensation to the 410 farmers affected by reduced yields.

The Balaghat district administration asked the Regional Science Laboratory (RSL) of Jabalpur to make a study of the land. The RSL confirmed the presence of acid and heavy metals in the fields.

The researchers have found traces of heavy metals in the nearby Banjar river that flows through Kanha National Park.

The Mirador Mine will be enormous, with mining started at an altitude of 800 meters, mining an open pit down to levels below sea level in area of over 200 water sources. The runoff from rainfall of two and a half tons per square meter per year will be enormous, hydrology will be changed, forests will die, fish, mammals and birds will die, ground water will be polluted, life style and culture will be destroyed, lands will be poisoned.

Are we, in the words of President Correa “infantile” when we care about our shared heritage, and question his declarations of eco-friendly sustainable growth?

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