In his WhatsApp profile photo Zhu Jun poses with a local Ecuadorian man. Zhu is square of face, young and wearing glasses; the local is strong, naked to the waist, with traditional necklaces and feathered headdresses.
Zhu has been a community relations manager since 2013 for Chinese company CRCC-Tongguan (hereafter Tongguan). He works in Tundayme, a small town in south-east Ecuador close to the Mirador copper mine. This large mine has ore reserves of 660 million tonnes and has been operated by Tongguan since 2010.
Zhu sounded worried when I spoke to him on the phone: “You’ve already been in touch with CASCOMI. Maybe you’re already on their side?”
He was referring to the Amazonian Community of the Cóndor Mirador Mountain Range, an organisation of about 100 local tribal households, founded in 2014 and chaired by Luis Sanchez Shiminaycela. It’s been causing the company problems.
Zhu sighs: “I hope in the end we’ll be able to reconcile with CASCOMI and Luis.”
Luis is swarthy, with long greying hair tucked behind his ears. He takes his Kichwa identity seriously but when I talk to him he isn’t wearing traditional dress. “These mountains are called the Condor Range,” he says. “The first finger of the Andes to reach into the Amazon rainforest.”
It’s March and we have come to a viewpoint high above the Mirador mine. He points to a cloudy mountain top and asks: “Do you think the ridge looks like the face of one of us locals? We all think it does.”
Ten years ago, when all you could see from here was verdant green rainforest, that might have seemed an interesting question. But between our viewpoint and that mountaintop, more than 1,300 hectares of rainforest have been turned into an open-pit mine. Expanses of yellow earth are exposed on the mountainsides, small clusters of buildings are scattered here and there, and huge machines are present. From here we can see only one-seventh of the mine.
Luis suggests the biggest difference between himself and the Chinese is that “maybe Chinese people keep thinking about the money buried under the ground. Here we don’t want that money. We used to have a kind of wealth that the mining industry can’t make up for.”
Original full text in Chinese: https://theinitium.com/article/20190705-international-ecuador-mining-mirador/