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Few cases embody the image of David versus Goliath like the case of Ecuador vs Chevron
. The indigenous people of the Lago Agrio have been trying for over two decades to get Chevron to clean up the pollution caused by oil fields and to take responsibility for the medical, environmental and cultural consequences of this pollution. Unsurprisingly, Chevron is using every bit of its sizeable resources to make sure they never have to face the music.
Texaco comes for Ecuadorian oil in the 1960’
The beginning of the story reaches back to the 1960’s, when the US government considered Ecuador as their private domain and the Ecuadorian government fully agreed. In all fairness, many Latin American countries in the 1960’s and 1970’s were sliding into military dictatorships, but as they were faithful allies of the oldest democracy in the world, no one seemed to care. And it gave American companies an open boulevard to invest and exploit the natural resources. That’s how Texaco came to Ecuador to try and find oil to collect. They explored the northeastern area of Lago Agrio and founded the city of Nueva Loja as their base camp. They eventually found oil and started production in the beginning of the 1970’s, nevermind the indigenous people that lived off the land in the area and whose habitat could be degraded by the drilling… The operation involved Texaco, but also Gulf Oil, another major American company in the sector, and the Ecuadorian state-owned oil company, CEPE. Eventually, Gulf Oil pulled out and CEPE became the majority owner of the consortium in 1976 even though Texaco still was in charge. Finally, Texaco’s concession expired in 1993, and the state owned company, which had become Petroecuador in 1989, became sole owner of the exploitation. Between 1964 and 1990, Texaco had drilled about 350 oil wells in an area of around 2,700 square miles of rainforest, and it reaped $30 billion in profit from that oil.
Spotlight on China
Domestic media reported that a red-mud reservoir at Sanmenxia in Mianchi County failed at approximately half past six in the afternoon of December 15th. The reservoir, operated by East Hope Sanmenxia Aluminum Co., Ltd. reportedly flooded the area with toxic tailings, leading to the immediate death of at least two individuals. Local emergency-management officials, including representatives from the occupational safety bureau, the health department, and local law enforcement, organized a response shortly after the dam’s failure. The latest reports available indicate that such personnel are continuing the emergency response and initiating disaster-mitigation operations.
This is not the first red-mudslide to occur in the area in recent months. Another such incident occurred in early August in another location in Mianchi County, at the Henan Xiangjiang Wanji Aluminum Co., Ltd. The plant was shut down only days before due to the weakening of the dam holding in the substantial reservoir, and three hundred residents were evacuated from the area. The county government called in industry experts to inspect all four red-mud reservoirs in the area after the spill, and prompted local metals firms Sanmenxia Aluminum Co. and Yixiang Aluminum Co. as well as local municipal governments to conduct inspections of their own as well, with orders to report back with their findings. What’s more, in July 2016, the government of Mianchi Country checked East Hope’s red mud field following reports about ground water contamination. The company was exonerated shortly afterwards, after local officials found no proof for the complaint.
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