Ecuador activists want mining consultations to 'rain down'

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, September 24, 2020

Social conflicts around water could escalate in Ecuador after the constitutional court ruled in favor of a request for a popular consultation aimed at halting mining projects in the south of the country, specifically in the town of Cuenca, Azuay province.

Activists from the Caminantes group warned at a conference that after the ruling, more popular consultation requests regarding mining projects will follow.

"We invite the people of Ecuador to present a similar popular consultation project to the constitutional court; that the popular consultation projects rain down on the court to achieve a comprehensive defense of water sources at the national level," said David Fajardo, a member of Cabildo por el Agua, which brings together anti-mining organizations.

"This is the logical consequence of achieving a result like this in the constitutional court."

According to Fajardo, once a way to obtain approvals for popular consultations has been established, continued pressure is necessary. He also believes that an instruction manual should be put together and shared throughout the country.

Carlos Castro, a lawyer who sponsored the request for popular consultation before the constitutional court, told BNamericas that of the around 800 mining concessions in Azuay province around 30 are large mining projects that would affect water recharge zones (where the rivers are born).

Canada’s INV Metals' Loma Larga project and Río Blanco, owned by Chinese companies Junefield and Hunan Gold, and operated by Ecuagoldmining, appear to be targeted for a popular consultation.

According to consultation promoters, these projects are located in the hydrographic basin that would be most affected by mining activity, although the general manager of INV Metals for Ecuador, Jorge Barreno, told BNamericas in a recent interview that Loma Larga will not affect water supply.

The constitutional court ruling indicates that it will not be applied retroactively, even if the consultation approves of the prohibition.

However, Castro maintains that, given that none of the companies is in the exploitation phase yet and that the consultation will ask about exploitation, the projects should be stopped in case of a favorable result.

The electoral council must still approve the consultation and the signatures that support the request must be validated. After that, Cuenca’s population will be asked if it agrees to ban metal mining in areas that contain recharge water from five rivers.

Recharge zones must be designated by the environment and water ministry, taking as reference a definition developed by Cuenca water company Etapa, and which was used in the request for popular consultation before the court.

Castro said that it will be necessary to even think about regulating the use and management of land in other areas of Azuay, where, among others, Grupo México's Ruta del Cobre project is located. He also advocates expediting an ordinance of areas classified as conservation and regulated water recharge zones.

Azuay governor and presidential candidate for the indigenous movement, Yaku Pérez, had repeatedly tried to obtain a favorable opinion from the court to carry out the popular consultation. Hence, the activists consider the latest ruling an historical legal and political triumph.

In 2018, Ecuadorans already voted in a popular consultation that mining activities cannot be carried out in protected or populated areas, so experts think that mining projects in Azuay province should not be affected by the new plebiscite, as they do not violate this provision.

Subscribe to the most trusted business intelligence platform in Latin America. Let us show you our solutions for Suppliers, Contractors, Operators, Government, Legal, Financial and Insurance.

Subscribe to Latin America’s most trusted business intelligence platform.

Other projects in: Water & Waste

Get critical information about thousands of Water & Waste projects in Latin America: what stages they're in, capex, related companies, contacts and more.

Other companies in: Water & Waste (Ecuador)

Get critical information about thousands of Water & Waste companies in Latin America: their projects, contacts, shareholders, related news and more.

  • Company: La Llave S.A.  (La Llave)
  • La Llave is a regional distributor of industrial equipment and supplies for companies that operate in the manufacturing, energy, mining and sanitation markets. The company suppl...
  • Company: Consorcio PTAR Las Esclusas Guayaquil
  • The PTAR Las Esclusas Guayaquil consortium is building the Las Esclusas wastewater treatment plant, in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The contract worth approximately US$98mn includes the ...