The Ascendex Mining Corporation has purchased the gold concessions of over 70,000 hectares of the Upper Napo River Basin from the Ecuadorian government. The above picture shows one of their gold strip mining sites, which is only a few hundred meters from the Napo River .

The Ecuadorian government and Petroecuador, the national oil company, have recently opened two new oil blocks, places for potential future drilling. These blocks encompass parts of the Napo, Orellana, and Pastaza provinces, which are the areas where the Kallari communities are located. The bidding process for a foreign oil company to exploit the land is currently on hold due to political conflicts, and local communities and national and international environmental, social justice, and indigenous rights groups are taking advantage of this extra time to fight the entry of the oil industry.

Simply speaking, oil exploitation in the Ecuadorian Amazon is bad for the people, for the environment, and for the local economy. A brief look at Tena's northern neighbors, oil-towns Lago Agrio and Coca, shows this problem. Reckless oil exploitation has caused contamination of the ground, rivers, and air. Both cities suffer from social problems such as malnutrition, prostitution, and crime. Indigenous groups in the Amazon have a direct relationship to their land, and its pollution and invasion of oil workers (and colonists and missionaries who will arrive from the building of roads) have caused diseases, migration to the cities, as well as other negative impacts. This has also caused indigenous groups to abandon some of their traditional practices and systems of organization, which has led to a partial loss of their identity. Petroleum companies in Ecuador exploits resources without paying attention to the negative impacts. The benefits are concentrated into only a few hands, especially private enterprises. This generates destruction of the environment and causes violations of human rights without creating sustainable investments in the communities.

It is a good thing for the people who live in the affected communities (as well as others), that this time, they have the law on their side. Here is why: In 1998, the new Ecuadorian Constitution mandated that the Ecuadorian government has to conduct an extensive consultation process with the inhabitants of the affected communities before the bidding of the area could commence. In addition, in November 2001, the International Labor Organization (ILO) recommended that the Ecuadorian government follow ILO Convention 169 (on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples), specifically Article 15. Article 15 declares that residents in indigenous and tribal communities have the right to be consulted before the nation-state enters into their land for the purposes of hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation. It also guarantees that the interested residents will be able to participate in the various stages of the process of exploitation and exploration. In spite of the rights guaranteed in the Ecuadorian Constitution and the ILO Convention, the consultation process, carried out during September, October and November of 2003, was determined to be illegitimate by an independent investigation. According to a report by Meghan Morris, on behalf of Centro de Derechos Economicos y Sociales (CDES), the consultation process included lies, withholding of information, bribes, and threats.

This is the first consultation process of its kind in the history of Ecuador, and will consequently be used to set a precedent for all future oil activity in the country. For this reason, it is vital that the illegitimate results of the consultation process -- incorrectly claiming that the majority of the inhabitants of the affected villages approve oil exploration -- are overturned. The consultation process needs to be conducted again, in a legal manner, so the indigenous people will be able to have self-determination.

We are the Kallari Association. The reason we are taking a stand against oil exploitation in blocks 20 and 29 is to assist the 800 plus families in our cooperative. They are part of the twenty-two communities that will be affected by oil exploitation in the region.

The Resistance Coalition Against Oil Exploitation in Oil Blocks 20 and 29 was formed on March 20, 2004, with the participation of the civil society and indigenous and youth organizations from the Pastaza, Napo, and Orellana provinces. The Coalition, formed as a response to the illegally-administered consultation process, consists of the following groups: Kallari Association, RICANCIE (Network of Indigenous Communities of the Upper Napo Region for Intercultural Living and Ecotourism), RECOKA (Network of Kichwa Communities of the Amazon), Rukullacta Cooperative, ACIA (Association of Indigenous Communities from Arajuno), Association Tuna Runa Miray, UNE (National Union of Educators) of Napo, Association Waysayacu, Municipality of the County of Loreto, Federation of the Neighborhoodsof Tena, Parish of Cotundo, and the Youth Association of Archidona. The assembly resulted in a consensus rejecting oil activity in the provinces.

The objective of the Resistance Coalition is to promote activities to stop both the pre-bidding process and the entrance of the oil companies in the provinces, to inform the population and local organizations about the impacts of oil extraction, and to generate proposals from the local population to create equal and sustainable development.

Kallari Chocolate Lounge, E4-266 Wilson & Juan Leon Mera, Sector La Mariscal, Quito, Ecuador
Tele: (011-593-2) 223 - 6009