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Ecuador suspends Ascendant mining project

QUITO, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Ecuador's oil and mines minister on Tuesday ordered Ascendant Copper ACX.TO to suspend all mining activity at its Junin project, a move officials said could lead the government to revoke the firm's concessions.

Minister Galo Chiriboga said the Canadian company violated mining regulations and added the government is reviewing other mine projects for similar irregularities.

“We will see how the facts evolve, but eventually this could lead to a revocation” of its concessions, Chiriboga told reporters.

But the minister said the suspension could be lifted if Ascendant renegotiates its project plans with local communities and authorities.

“For those concessions that have violated legal and constitutional regulations... we will apply the law and that will be our mining industry policy,” he said.

An Ascendant spokesman contacted at the company office in Denver had no comment.

The minister said a group of academics reviewing concessions will issue a report next week on their findings.

Last year, authorities asked Ascendant to suspend mining activity in the area to prevent conflict with anti-mining activists who argue the project is an environmental hazard.

Ascendant is exploring for copper at the Junin project, which includes three concessions in northern Ecuador.

Ecuador has no significant output of precious metals at the moment, but Canadian companies such as Aurelian Resources ARU.TO and Corriente Resources CTQ.TO are exploring for gold and copper.

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