MINING POLICY non-consultation: a warning about the consolidation of the extractivist model IN ECUADOR
CEDHU: 10 May 2019
The consolidation of the extractivist model will contribute to increased violence towards affected communities, evidencing the continuity of mechanisms aimed at prosecuting, criminalizing and prosecuting people, leaders and social organizations that have been resisting for many years.
In the period 2018-2021, 275 concessions were awarded for mining exploration activities through a process of auction, with more than 1,500 million dollars committed, said Fernando Benalcázar, Vice Minister of Mines, on April 27th. This motivated mining transnationals who have projects in the country to announce the creation of the Alliance for Responsible Mining in Ecuador (AMRE), led by Adventus, Lowell Copper, Cornerstone, Lumina Gold, INV Metals, Lundin Gold, Newcrest, Toachi Mining, SolGold and the Ecuador Chamber of Mining. This constitutes a deepening of extractive policy in Ecuador and a violation of individual and collective civil rights, especially the right to previous consultation, as communities have not been consulted regarding the award of concessions in favour of mining companies.
On April 24, 2019, President Lenín Moreno ordered the issuing of a new State Mining Policy through Executive Decree 722, which has six axes: sectoral planning, investments, prior and popular consultation, efficient and sustainable management, combat to illegal mining and tax benefits. These axes fundamentally seek greater articulation among Ministries, foreign investors and sectors of civil society, while increasing investment with tax benefits such as tax exemptions and elimination of others, making the rules for granting of permits and environmental licenses more flexible, and regulating free, prior and informed consent. The Government has also included the Fruta del Norte and Mirador mining projects, located in Zamora Chinchipe and Loma Larga in Azuay respectively, in its mining investments plan that forms part of the new International Monetary Fund (IMF) Agreement.
According to research conducted by Martín Zorrilla et al (2018), our country has the greatest biodiversity in the world. The threat of extinction for part of this biodiversity has increased dramatically since April 2016, when the Government opened around 13% of the country to mining exploration, with many concessions covering previously protected forests. Given that more than 30% of the total area designated as Protected Forests (Bosques Protectores) is included in the new exploratory mining concessions, forest area will be significantly reduced if exploration or exploitation occurs. Most concessions are located in the hyper-diverse zone of forests and water sources.
Within the framework of resistance to the imposition of extractive projects, social organizations since 2017 have demanded that the State Comptroller General investigate and issue reports on irregularities regarding several large-scale mining projects, that have been denounced by communities. To date, the surrogate Comptroller, Pablo Celi, has visited the mining projects Loma Larga in Quimsacocha-Azuay and Llurimagua in Imbabura.
The Llurimagua project, located in the Intag region of Cotacachi, is the responsibility of the National Mining Company (Enami) and the Chilean National Copper Corporation (Codelco), a company that, until now, has financed most of the exploratory activities carried out since 2015. A lack of evaluation and control has meant that preventive and mitigation measures have not been applied; therefore, there have been no administrative sanctions to suspend or revoke the environmental license. In other words, the Environment Ministry (MAE) approved the impact study and environmental management plan without local parameters that describe the characteristics of the project area. The legal violations have been so serious that the Comptroller concluded in its report that the mining concession should have been revoked.
Shortly afterwards, the Ombudsman's report on this project gave evidence of the constant threat experienced by numerous people from the Intag area who are opposed to the mining project. In addition, it notes that, together with the absence of supervision of mining operations, the State, through its institutions, including the National Police, systematically violated the rights of the community and nature.
On May 8, 2019, Carlos Pérez, Minister of Energy and Non-Renewable Resources, announced a reform to the Organic Environmental Code that will regulate prior and popular consultation in the mining, oil and electricity fields. He also announced that in coming days, President Lenín Moreno will sign an Executive Decree to this effect. This reform has alarmed affected communities; in the case of Quimsacocha, it goes against the referendum of March 24, 2019, which has been an important precedent of democracy, and will have a direct, binding impact on the region after a long process of resistance that has not been exempt from persecution, criminalization and judicialization of social leaders.
With these antecedents, the Ecumenical Commission of Human Rights (CEDHU) denounces that the new announcement to regulate the consultations by decree is illegal, because it aims to regulate a constitutional right, violating the principle of reservation of law, and because it is a clear contradiction to judicial decisions and voices of regional populations who have demanded an end to extractive activities.
We demand that the judgments and decisions expressed through popular consultations be complied with; and that state authorities comply with the provisions of the General Comptroller of the State in the Special Examination on the Llurimagua project. In addition, we demand compliance with the provisions of the Ombudsman's Resolution on the above project’s violation of human and nature rights, wherein he urges the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Resources to declare the termination of the Llurimagua mining concession, and urges the National Secretariat of Water (SENAGUA) to revoke authorizations of water use.
We warn that the imposition and consolidation of the extractivist model in Ecuador violates human and nature rights as guaranteed in the Constitution and in International Treaties and Agreements; therefore, it will contribute to increased violence towards the affected communities, continuing mechanisms aimed at prosecuting and criminalizing people, leaders and social organizations who have been resisting for many years. There are cases of unresolved murders of social leaders that provide evidence of conflict over the appropriation of natural resources by state and transnational corporations.
We have verified that up until now, the State’s role has been to guarantee that the activities of the mining companies are not interrupted; a clear example is the imposition of mining policies which violate the right to free, prior and informed consent, and which are incapable of controlling the management and regulation of mining activities.
Original statement (Spanish) can be found on the CEDHU website at: https://cedhu.org/noticias/counicados/152-alerta-por-la-consolidacion-del-modelo-extractivista-en-ecuador