SOURCE: Ascendant Copper Corporation

December 19, 2006 10:49 ET

Ascendant Copper Corporation Responds to NGO Allegations Regarding Its Junin Project

VANCOUVER, BC -- (MARKET WIRE) -- December 19, 2006 -- Given the amount of negative publicity and outright distortion of truth being published by anti-mining NGOs during the past few days regarding activities in the Intag region of Ecuador where its Junin copper-molybdenum porphyry project is located, Ascendant Copper Corporation ("Ascendant" or the "Company") (TSX: ACX) (Common Sahres: ACX) (Warrants: ACX.WT) (BERLIN: A0HMLE) believes it must set the record straight.

According to Gary E. Davis, the President and CEO of the Company, "There are two separate and distinct issues at play here. First is approval of the Company's Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") for exploration of the Junin project. Second concerns our efforts to conduct non-mining related agricultural activities on surface properties in the area which are legally owned by the Company. These two matters are not related, no matter how much the opposing NGOs might like to make them so. Further, to be perfectly clear, in no manner or form has the Government of Ecuador suspended Ascendant's activities or threatened to suspend or obstruct it from carrying out activities related to either its mining concessions or surface lands."

Regarding the EIS, the Company acknowledges that it did recently receive a letter from the Ministry of Energy and Mines stating that the Company cannot conduct mining-related activities on its Junin concessions until such time as there is an approved EIS. The Company concurs, and has always concurred, that this is factual -- without an approved EIS, which is the legal authorization to proceed with exploration, the Company may not do so. "For whatever reason, the NGOs are attempting to parlay this letter into something that it is not," said Mr. Davis. "You would be led to believe from a press release issued by MiningWatch Canada that this is new news and somehow damning to the project. It is neither."

Within the last month, as part of the political process resulting from the election of a new President of the country, the Minister of Energy and Mines has made several new appointments within the Ministry including a new Vice Minister of Environment. The new Vice Minister has been placed in the very difficult position of having to handle the delicate NGO vs. mining industry situation that seems to be escalating during this period of political transition.

Several Canadian newspapers have recently carried articles that have suggested or stated that the Company has started using military force in the Intag region to secure its surface lands. These allegations are illogical, irrational and just simply false. The facts of this are set out below.

The Company currently owns in the Intag region, primarily within the Junin concessions, approximately 2,800 hectares (6,700 acres) of surface lands. Initially the thought in acquiring these lands was that it made sense for the Company to own the surface overlying the known copper mineralization as well as to provide unobstructed access routes into and out of the concession areas. All of these lands were purchased from local residents who held title to the lands.

During the last several months the Company has been attempting to access these lands to commence agricultural work on them and, in October, signed an agreement with an independent, third party Ecuadorian agricultural company to assist the Company in maximizing the agricultural potential of its properties. This company, Falericorp, is dedicated to the development of agricultural and agro-industrial projects. As part of its agreement with Ascendant, Falericorp agreed to create an ecological conservation area around the area of Ascendant's operations and develop sustainable agricultural activities as part of an overall community development plan as well as hire no less than 80% of its workers from communities in the vicinity of its properties.

It was this company, Falericorp, in an effort to carry out its contract with the Company, which supposedly "stormed" the local communities as reported by the National Post and the Ottawa Citizen. In fact, this company did have 57 people located on and beginning work on the Company's lands. They were accosted by what can only be termed an eco-terrorist group armed with shotguns and automatic weapons and then forced at gunpoint to cease work on the Company's properties and were held hostage against their will for approximately a week. Of these individuals, it is reported by Falericorp to the Company that approximately 20 were there to provide protection against possible aggression and the remainder were farmers and trained agricultural workers. Despite guards being present, the group peacefully surrendered to the terrorist group. All captives were subsequently released unharmed.

As reported in the Canadian press, there were several related stories that played out during this same time. It was reported that the Mayor of the Cotacachi Canton, in which the Junin project is located, upon trying to bus into the area approximately 100 outsiders to support the extremists in the hostage taking situation, was "shot at, pelted with stones and threatened by pro-mining activists." "While I understand that no shots were fired and, as such, no one was shot at," stated Mr. Davis, "this underscores the strong disapproval the local people have for the Mayor and his repeated attempts to block development in the area and support the NGOs. This was a spontaneous demonstration by the communities against the Mayor, and the Company was in no way involved in it."

On several websites it has been intimated that the military participated in these confrontations. This also is not factual. Up to this point in time, the military has not been involved. The Company understands, however, that the military is aware of reports of illegal automatic weapons being present in the area and has indicated that this could lead to future military investigations.

As was reported last month, the Company has signed an agreement with the communities of the Intag region, which support the Company's proposed exploration activities in the area. Under this agreement, the Company will continue funding social development and environmental programs in the area contingent upon it being able to commence exploration of the Junin concessions. For the last two years, the Company has maintained active social and environmental programs within the communities. These include, among others, providing much needed medical and dental facilities and personnel, working with the communities in improving the educational system including teacher training and scholarships, providing training on farming techniques, vaccinating cattle, supporting soccer camps, providing trash collection and disposal, maintaining and building roads, and developing nurseries (with over 40,000 plants) to support reforestation of areas deforested by slash-and-burn agricultural methods. According to Mr. Davis, commenting on these programs, "It is clear that the local residents appreciate our efforts and the employment opportunities we bring to the area. It is the people that ultimately are the losers if the NGOs are successful in delaying exploration and possible mining in the region."

"We believe that we are doing the right things on the ground and do not understand the ongoing attacks, both in actuality and in the media, on our Company by groups who have little or no stake in the area. We will not ignore the will of the local people and are prepared to do our work in the most environmentally and socially responsible manner. We have offered to talk to these extremist groups about our plans, but they don't seem to be interested in finding any real or sustainable solutions," adds Davis.

In spite of these problems at Junin, the Company's drilling progress continues on the Chaucha project. A LongYear L-38 drill has been obtained and moved on to site. Drilling of the first hole of a 5,000 meter drilling program (10 to 16 holes) has commenced and is currently at approximately 100 meters.

Ascendant's principal business is the exploration for copper in Ecuador. The Company has two primary properties, the Junin and Chaucha properties, as well as an extensive exploration data base developed for Ecuador by Rio Tinto Mining and Exploration Limited and the recently acquired Telimbela copper/molybdenum grass roots exploration property in an historical mining district in south-central Ecuador. The Junin Project, located in northern Ecuador, is a copper-molybdenum, gold and silver porphyry property with a reported inferred mineral resource of 982 million tonnes grading 0.89% copper, 0.04% molybdenum and 1.9 grams per ton of silver, at a 0.4% copper cut-off grade (1). The Company has recently partnered with Antofagasta PLC for the exploration and advancement of the Company's Chaucha copper-molybdenum property in southern Ecuador (2). Results from the current drilling program on the Chaucha property will be reported as they become available.

(1) See "Technical Report Review of the Quartz Porphyry-Hosted Copper-Molybdenum Mineralisation at Junin, Otavalo, Ecuador" prepared by Qualified Person, Paul D. Gribble, C. Eng., Senior Mineral Resources Geologist, of Micon International Co Limited ("Micon").

(2) See "Technical Report dated April 8, 2005, and amended August 5, 2005, Review of the Quartz Porphyry-Hosted Copper-Molybdenum Mineralisation at Chaucha, Cuenca, Ecuador" prepared by Qualified Persons, Paul D. Gribble, C. Eng., Senior Mineral Resources Geologist, and David T. Wells, Senior Metallurgist, of Micon. The Chaucha property is presently classified only as a geologic mineral property.

(3) Because of the uncertainty that may attach to these preliminary es timates, it cannot be assumed that all or any part of this reported mineralization will be upgraded to a mineral resource category as a result of continued exploration(2).

Contact Information

  • Company contact:
    Gary E. Davis
    Ascendant Copper Corporation
    "Gerald E. (Gary) Davis"
    President and CEO

    10920 West Alameda Avenue, Suite 201
    Lakewood, CO 80226
    Tel: (303) 824-0271
    Fax: (720) 692-4648
    Email Contact