Ecuador: How to Balance the Rights of Indigenous & Local Communities With Economic Development?

Truth Out

OSCAR LEÓN, TRNN PRODUCER: Indigenous communities and the affected local communities have opposed this mining initiative for many years now and have protested against it all around the country. This has led to a split between Correa, ecologists, some student groups, and the indigenous confederations, all of which were his former allies. Correa has inherited a long-standing challenge to regulate artisanal mining, and in many cases he has assumed the unpopular task of imposing mega mining projects to some local communities, like this one in San Jose de Intag, Imbabura Province, in the north of Ecuador. The local population is also worried about the consequences of an open pit mine.

CECILIA, LOCAL FARMER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I visited Cerro de Pasco, where they extract copper from an open pit mine. Every day, houses fall into the hole, which keeps getting bigger and bigger.
LEÓN: We contacted Jaime Guaman Guevara, an environmental consultant for mining projects from the south of the country with wide experience in the area. He supports the proposed mining projects and responded to our questions in writing.

JAIME R. GUAMAN, ENGINEER AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANT (TEXT ON SCREEN): Currently in Ecuador 95% of the mining is done by unregulated, untaxed and unsafe artisanal projects. While a new Mining Law has been approved, the regulations to apply such law have not been written yet. This is an inefficient activity.
As an environmental sciences professional, I can’t deny that an open pit mine will have an impact. I believe that in some cases such damage can be justified by the gains it returns to society.
LEÓN: Intag is a valley on a semi-tropical mountain range, about 1,800 meters above sea level on the Pacific coast of South America. It is located on a subtropical area full of mountains, rivers, and valleys.

Gold and copper have been found in the area, but until 1994 it was not possible to exploit these minerals, because Ecuadorian law didn’t allow exploitation in an ecological reserve at the time. In 1994, the World Bank loaned money to Ecuador under the condition that the country open its natural and ecological parks and reserves to mining and oil drilling. Conservative president Sixto Durán Ballén accepted such terms.
For 20 years now, Intag’s life has been a fight to defend its territory.

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