Last month Ecuador did something it had never done before. It signed contracts for the first large-scale mining project in the history of the country. Prior to President Rafael Correa's championing of mega-mines in Ecuador, Ecuador was the last Andean country without a large-scale mine. It was also the last Andean country to not have to deal with major water contamination from cyanide run-off. It was the last Andean country to not have to deal with the millions of tons of toxic mine tailings each mine site must dispose of, often in water sources. That's all changed now.
Despite growing protests because of Correa's decision to open up the country to multi-national mining corporations, the President has remained defiant and steadfast in his decision. Even as thousands of people poured into the streets last month for a two week march in defense of water and in opposition to large-scale mining, Correa proclaimed: "We will not be beggars sitting on a sack of gold.";
The northwest slope of the Ecuadorian Andes is known as the Intag. Since the 1990s, the Ecuadorian government, with the support of the World Bank, has promoted large scale metal mining in the area.
Mitsubishi arrived to Intag in 1993 and began exploring a deposit of copper, molybdenum, and gold. It left four years later -- after local communities burned the company's mining camp (after removing, inventorying, and later returning its contents).