Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Canada-Ecuador: When Stock Exchanges Fuel Human Rights Violations

A very interesting article came up on upsidedown world just before Christmas concerning the methods of the junior mining company in South America (Ecuador, to be exact). Written by the author of Ascendant Copper's dsownfall, Carlos Zorrillo, it examines the role of the stock exchange in cases of human rights abuses, using what happened at Intag as its base point. Well worth reading, even if you don't necessarily agree.

Canada-Ecuador: When Stock Exchanges Fuel Human Rights Violations

Recently, Toronto-based Pinetree Capital bought a few million shares of Copper Mesa Mining Corporation, making it the largest share owner of a failing company currently embroiled in a lawsuit. The takeover raised the price of its penny stock upwards to between three and five cents.

Copper Mesa, however, got a lot more than what it bargained for.

Copper Mesa, until last year, was the owner of a couple of mining concessions in the Intag region of Ecuador. But the company ran into a strong, organized opposition from communities, local government and, eventually even the national government, which eventually stripped Copper Mesa of its concessions in the country. The company then had to shed itself of its mining projects in the US to pay off debts, leaving it as empty handed as when it was first aborted.

Needless to say, Copper Mesa’s directors and a select number of employees and shareholders have never been the worse for the disaster they created, which happens to be an established norm in the world of Canadian stock exchange business. The Bre-X case is one which comes to mind. Bre-X was the Canadian company that fleeced thousands of investors of billions of dollars all based on a non-existent gold mine in Indonesia.

Copper Mesa, based in Vancouver, is infamous for other reasons, in addition to wasting millions of dollars on a mining project that has gone nowhere. Its notoriety mostly comes from using the equivalent of paramilitaries in the Junín community to forcefully trying to gain access to its concessions (which they never were able to access even to explore). Interestingly enough, the shootout took place almost exactly three years ago to the day that Pinetree took over the shipwreck called Copper Mesa. The assault against the community of Junin failed completely, but the graphic images and video of ex-military thugs dressed as security personnel shooting at defenseless campesinos went round the world, and is featured on several full-length documentaries about Intag’s successful resistance to mining.

In the rich and varied annals of corporate abuse and stupidity, and in record time, this has become a classic.