16.05.2020 – The Ecologist

Indigenous Shuar People at risk of coronavirus
Hannibal Rhoades

More than 100 organisations have signed a letter repudiating mining companies for putting Indigenous Shuar communities in the Ecuadorean Amazon at risk.

More than 100 organisations from around the world have signed onto an open-letter to show their support for the Shuar Arutam People (PSHA) in the Ecuadorian Amazon as they confront a possible Covid-19 outbreak in their territories.

The initiative responds to the PSHA’s urgent demands of the Ecuadorian government following the death of two people whose close relatives traveled to the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s (PDAC) mining fair in Toronto, Canada in March, 2020.

In March, the PSHA denounced the company for bringing 7 Shuar community members to Toronto in supposed representation of the communities, despite not being duly elected representatives of the Shuar Arutam People’s Assembly.

Mining

The PSHA decried the delegation as part of efforts to undermine their categorical rejection of mining in their territory. Upon the delegation’s return to Ecuador, two of their immediate family members died with Covid-19-like symptoms. At least  eight other members of Shuar communities are also showing symptoms.

International organisations condemned Solaris Resources’ “ongoing interference in Shuar indigenous territory as well as its disdain for the self-determining decisions of the PSHA”, noting that“the actions of this company and its subsidiary in Ecuador (Lowell Minerals) constitute serious threats to peace and health in the Amazon region as a whole.”

Other mining companies from Canada, Australia and China also pose a threat to the communities’ ongoing struggle to protect health and the environment against resource extraction.

The open letter observes: “Their activities are causing irreparable damage and putting the social fabric of Indigenous communities and mega-diverse Amazonian ecosystems at grave risk. The mere presence of company employees in the region, due to the possibility of coronavirus transmission, may exacerbate these impacts.”

Solidarity

The letter closes with an expression of solidarity to the PSHA and all Indigenous peoples in the Amazon whose territories are threatened by Covid-19 and resource extraction.

The President of the Shuar Arutam People’s assembly (PSHA), Josefina Tunki, remarks: “In the name of the Shuar Arutam peoples, we are grateful for the solidarity and support that organisations from around the globe have shown us.

“For the Shuar Peoples and other nationalities, this solidarity represents a greater defence for protection which helps us to better defend lives, and protect the water and the forest which are fundamental for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous world”.

Given the difficulties that the Shuar Arutam peoples are now facing, this morning the PSHA launched a crowdsourcing campaign to assist them to collect funds which will be dedicated to buying community sanitation packs and food stuffs for their communities. You can donate here.

Click here to see the full letter and organizations who signed on.

This Article 

Hannibal Rhoades is head of communications at The Gaia Foundation. This article is based on a joint press release from Accion Ecologica, AmazonWatch, Caminantes Ecuador, Fundacion ALDEA, IPS, Global Economy Project, London Mining Network, MiningWatch Canada, Pueblo Shuar Arutam, Yes to Life, No to Mining.