Eye on the Amazon

The Shuar Arutam Will Not Be Divided by Canadian Mining Company Solaris Resources

The company has led a divisive public relations campaign in attempts to manufacture consent for the Warintza mining project

Photo credit: Amazon Watch

Amazon Watch, together with local and international organizations, has supported the Indigenous resistance by the Shuar Arutam (PSHA) against large-scale extractive projects such as mining in the Ecuadorian Amazon. These projects have the potential to cause irreversible impacts on the environment, local Indigenous communities, and their culture. The harm caused by such projects is well-documented. In fact, Ecuador's first large-scale mining project, "Mirador," is a tragic example of the damage mining can create on Shuar Arutam territory. Since its inception, the project has caused mass deforestation, contaminated headwaters, displaced Indigenous communities, and it has led to the breakdown of social agreements within the communities because organizational structures have been co-opted.

In recent months, the Canadian mining company Solaris Resources, Inc., licensee of the Warintza project, has launched an aggressive public relations campaign in an attempt to coerce communities to allow the extractive project to move forward on Shuar Arutam territories.

The PSHA are resisting these strategic attacks by the mining company, but the fight is rigged. They are up against a company with significant economic power and resources. This is why we need international solidarity for their cause and to amplify their campaign, "The Shuar Arutam Have Already Decided: No Mining in Our Territories." We have an opportunity to learn from the past and make history so that mining projects can never again cause displacement, pollution, and the violation of Indigenous rights on Shuar Arutam territory.

The history of the Shuar Arutam and mining concessions

The territory of the Shuar Arutam people is made up of 45 communities located in the Cordillera del Cóndor, the border area between Ecuador and Peru, whose mountains are home to a unique and fragile ecosystem of biological importance with high levels of biodiversity and endemic species. Those mountains are the source of three important Amazon rivers – the Santiago, the Zamora, and the Coangos.

The Shuar Arutam people have a collective assembly decision-making structure, in which all communities participate and resolutions are passed to be fully executed by the Governing Council, a body of representatives that is democratically-elected.

From the beginning of its organizational history, PSHA has formally rejected extractive projects in its territories, particularly mining projects that have remained a constant threat. Despite their staunch opposition, the Ecuadorian government is advancing several large-scale mining projects which now cover 50 percent of their ancestral territory. Current mining projects on their territory are the San Carlos-Panantza project by Chinese firm Ecuacorrientes SA (currently paused after a conflict between the military and several Shuar communities who were forcibly evicted from their homes for the construction of a workers camp), the Lost Cities-Cutucu project by Aurania Resources and a local subsidiary, and the Warintza Project by Canadian-based Solaris Resources, Inc.

Solaris Resources' divide and conquer tactics

The Warintza project has caused serious internal conflicts within PSHA, as Solaris Resources is using divisive community relations tactics to manufacture consent for its project. The company secretly established direct relationships with two communities, without authorization from the Assembly and the Governing Council. By doing this, Solaris is circumventing and disrespecting the organizational structure of PSHA, with the aim of establishing a "strategic alliance" by offering economic benefits that fragment PSHA's social fabric and weaken its intra-community relations.

In March of this year, at a PDAC conference (the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada), Solaris Resources, Inc. presented the results of an alleged "prior consultation" that it had obtained through this "strategic alliance." The announcement was publicly questioned and rejected by PSHA because this process lacked legality and legitimacy. The process did not follow the constitutional mandate of the Ecuadorian state's guarantee of the right to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) in coordination with PSHA. It requires respecting PSHA's traditional decision-making structure in order to obtain FPIC, as indicated by national and international standards on the collective rights of Indigenous peoples.

To further promote this illegitimate "strategic alliance," Solaris Resources has been using a communications campaign to position its Community Social Relations program as "successful and innovative." On September 8th, the company announced to its shareholders that an "Agreement for Cooperation, Benefits, and Access for the Warintza Project" had been signed by the Shuar Centers of Warintza and Yawi.

In response to this announcement, the Shuar Arutam people issued a direct response in an open letter addressed to the CEO and shareholders of Solaris Resources, S.A.:

"This 'Strategic Alliance' is not an 'innovative relationship' as Solaris portrays it. It is the same strategy that many mining and oil companies have used to advance their projects, while side-stepping and disrespecting the legitimate and traditional Indigenous organizational structures."

"We demand that Solaris Resources, Inc. abstain from continuing to manipulate our communities since we see that their activities are causing social impacts in our communities like provoking much tension and conflict and rupturing our social fabric. We demand that the company immediately leave our territories. In the event that you do not comply with our wishes, we will exercise our constitutional right to resistance and take other measures (Article 98)."

The Shuar Arutam need you to support their resistance

It is urgent to demonstrate to executives and shareholders that the practices of their company are not innovative, but instead reproduce the same colonialist model extractive companies have used for decades to violate Indigenous land rights and evade the faithful compliance of the rights established in the constitution of Ecuador and international human rights treaties.

The Shuar Arutam People call for the solidarity of the national and international community to support their struggle for the defense of life, forests, water, their territory, their culture, and their rights. You can support the demands of the Shuar Arutam by taking action. Tell Solaris Resource to immediately withdraw from Shuar Arutam territory, cease physical activities, and end its conflict-inducing public relations activities!

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