Current Problems


Indigenous organization levels complaint against Canadian mining company

March 5, 2024

Shuar Arutam People come together to discuss and deliberate strategies against extractive megaprojects at an assembly last year in Macuma, province Morona Santiago. Photo by LluviaComunicación Listen to article

Canada’s National Observer: As the world’s largest mining conference unfolds in Toronto, a Canadian company is facing a complaint about a proposed copper mine in Ecuador. 

The complaint against Vancouver-based Solaris Resources Inc. by an association of Indigenous communities is asking the British Columbia Securities Commission to investigate the company for allegedly failing to give shareholders a complete picture of the strong public opposition and legal risks facing its planned mine in southern Ecuador.

Meanwhile on Monday, Ecuador President Daniel Noboa pitched his country as the next mining destination at the annual Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada conference. He indicated attracting foreign mining investment is a priority for his administration.

The complaint was filed Feb. 29 by Amazon Watch, MiningWatch Canada and the Shuar Arutam People (PSHA) and supported by five other environmental organizations in Ecuador and South America.

Shuar Arutam people at a gathering in Maikiuants, a community neighbouring Warints and Yawi, last year. The poster in the back reads, “El Pueblo Shuar Arutam Ya decidió NO a la Minería. No queremos ser consultados,” in English: “The Shuar Arutam People have decided. We say, ‘No to mining!’ We don’t want to be consulted!” Photo by LluviaComunicación

“The reality on the ground is far different than the rosy outlook the company paints in its disclosures,” said Mary Mijares, fossil finance campaigner at Amazon Watch, in a press release.

“Solaris continues to keep its shareholders in the dark that there is steadfast opposition to this project that puts its viability at risk,” said Mijares.

The day after the complaint was sent to the securities commission, Solaris announced a co-operation agreement with a large Indigenous organization that critics say does not properly represent the affected Indigenous communities.

The Interprovincial Federation of Shuar Centers (FICSH) and the Alliance for Entrepreneurship and Innovation of Ecuador signed the agreement with Solaris. According to Solaris, the agreement aims to “promote the economic and social development” of Shuar communities, including Warints and Yawi, with “programs in health, education, skills training, entrepreneurship, innovation and sustainable mineral resource development.”

But the complaint states neither of these communities have individual land titles and the “strategic alliance” with a select few members of the Warints and Yawi communities has caused internal division. The PSHA people hold collective title and have not been consulted or consented, it reads.

“No legally binding consultation for the project has been conducted,” said Mijares. “Solaris has merely deployed a divide and conquer strategy in an attempt to manufacture consent.”

According to the complaint, the Ecuadorian government recognizes the Shuar Arutam People as an organization representing 47 communities with collective land title and ancestral possession over 232,500 hectares of territory in the Cordillera del Cóndor region of Ecuador’s Amazon, which overlaps the Warintza project. 

PSHA president Jaime Palomino spoke about the co-operation agreement and PSHA’s opposition to the Warintza mine project in a video posted on X on March 4.

Froilan Juank, president of Yawi Center, said the Warints and Yawi communities support this agreement, “which follows from our request for FICSH to represent us and our interests” in a press release issued by Solaris. 

“We reject the false statements made by foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Shuar Arutam People’s Associations (PSHA) which ignore our voice and speak against our interests,” said Juank, who is also on the board of directors of the “strategic alliance” with company representatives and one Warints community representative.

“We are the legitimate registered owners of the Ancestral Lands on which the Warintza Project resides and we have the right and have chosen, through our General Assembly, to participate in the project,” said Juank.

PSHA rejected the co-operation agreement in a March 4 press release, saying it tries to make people believe the agreement is endorsed by all Shuar communities and ignores their continued opposition to this mining project.

Solaris Resources’ “strategic alliance” with the Yawi and Warints communities has caused division and internal conflicts and undermines PSHA’s organizational structure and collective rights, according to the complaint.

Jaime Palomino, president of PSHA, at an assembly last year in Macuma, province Morona Santiago, where Shuar Arutam People came together to discuss and deliberate strategies against extractive megaprojects, including Solaris Resources’ Warintza mine project. Photo by LluviaComunicación

“[The company] has used strategies to divide our communities, buying off leaders and causing conflict in between communities,” reads the press release from PSHA. MiningWatch Canada published an English translation of the press release.

David Tankamash, president of FICSH, called the co-operation agreement “important for inclusive and sustainable mineral resource development.”

PSHA sees it differently. “In exchange for ‘projects and social benefits,’ they want to destroy our territory, our PSHA organization, biodiversity, water, animals, health, and take our minerals,” the statement reads.

The complaint points out that PSHA has successfully opposed extractive projects in their territories for more than two decades.

For example, PSHA won a historic court case in November 2022 that revoked an environmental licence for the Panantza-San Carlos mining project for failing to consult the communities affected directly and indirectly by the project.

The complaint argues that a lack of free, prior and informed consent from PSHA puts the viability of the Warintza mining project at “serious risk” and opens the door to future litigation. PSHA indicated it will pursue similar legal strategies against companies seeking to operate on their territories, presenting imminent risks for any company and investors, it reads.

When asked to comment on the complaint, Solaris Resources directed Canada’s National Observer to its recent press release on the co-operation agreement with FICSH.

PSHA has opposed the Warintza mine project since its inception in 2019 in direct communications with the company, press events, public statements and complaints to the International Labour Organization and the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review of Canada, according to the complaint.

“The Shuar have repeatedly asserted there exists no social licence for Solaris Resources’ flagship Warintza project, even as the Canadian company downplays strong and consistent opposition,” said Viviana Herrera, the Latin America co-ordinator for MiningWatch Canada, in a press release. 

The complaint filed with the securities commission by the Shuar Arutam People and allied organizations “is one more avenue to have their voices heard, as Ecuadorian communities increasingly succeed in stopping projects they see as socially and environmentally harmful,” said Herrera.

The complaint also noted “growing anti-mining sentiment throughout Ecuador,” including recent protests, votes and court decisions that were minimized or not disclosed by Solaris.

For example, it points to an August referendum when Ecuadorian citizens in the province of Pichincha voted “overwhelmingly” to ban all new or proposed mining activity in the province. In the nationwide vote, about 60 per cent of the population chose to shut down a major oilfield in Ecuador’s Amazon region and protect Yasuní National Park.

Ecuador and Canada will soon start negotiations on a free trade deal, and MiningWatch Canada and other organizations are worried that Ecuadorian civil society has not been included in the consultation process.

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer