In the ECUADOR ENDANGERED campaign we are supporting rural and indigenous communities in Ecuador to resist grand-scale mining concessions that have been secretly handed out by the government in several rounds since early 2017.
These concessions are a human rights and environmental catastrophe in the making. 2.9 million hectares (almost 13% of the country’s land mass) are impacted, including some of the the most biodiverse landscapes on Earth. If even some of these mining projects go ahead, thousands of endangered species risk extinction.
Grassroots resistance in Ecuador has been strengthening steadily. The international campaign has developed at a fast pace, responding as needed in support of community mobilisations and legal battles. RIC has been working through its partners the Melbourne Rainforest Action Group, to execute research and create resources, build alliances and direct funds to where they are needed.
100% of funds go to support the frontline in Ecuador with campaigning, legal funds and community organisation. We are currently devoting this space to raise money for the future of the Los Cedros Reserve.
In April 2021, a major legal case will be heard in the Intag area close to Los Cedros, where we concentrated our campaign last year. This is an appeal by the mining companies of the Rights of Nature for endangered species threatened by yet another huge copper mine. For more information visit our new page: Intag Sanctuary of Life.
And please, please, please give our new crowdfund some love ... the local communities and activists in Intag have very few financial resources and no big NGOs or donors on board, so your support is essential to help steer this legal case in favour of the Rights of Nature and the incredible forests of this part of Ecuador.
Pristimantis cedros. Image courtesy of Morley Read
LOS CEDROS UPDATE APRIL 2021
Last October, a Constitutional Court hearing took place for the Rights of Nature for the irreplaceable and mega-biodiverse Los Cedros Reserve. Around 85 amicus curiaes were submitted to the court, mostly from environmentalists and scientists in Ecuador and all over the world.
The court proceedings were expected to come to a resolution by December 2020. This didn't happen. We're still waiting for a result. The judges asked for further evidence of water contamination from mining in the region in March. Meanwhile, the Ecuadorian presidential elections have been underway. So ... watch this space.
OCTOBER 2020 - LOS CEDROS HEARING
Finally, the news from Ecuador that we have been waiting for! The court hearing will be on 19th October.
Some of our media is available on the Los Cedros website: https://loscedrosreserve.org/
MAY 2020 - Los Cedros Case Accepted for Constitutional Court Hearing!
In a precedent-setting move, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador has announced it will take on the case of the threatened Los Cedros Protected Forest by using the Rights of Nature enshrined in the constitution. The Constitutional Court will apply, for the first time, Ecuador’s constitutionally mandated Rights of Nature providing legal recognition for over 2.4m hectares (6m acres) of Protected Forests.
In this 5-minute video John Seed, founder of the Rainforest Information Centre, explains what is special about Los Cedros and why we are fighting to protect it.
(Los Cedros under cloud. Photo credit Davide Nicastro)
Here's why Los Cedros could be a game changer for protection of the world's most biodiverse forests!
For the past two years the fight has been ongoing to protect this mega-diverse Ecuadorian cloud forest from mining. In June 2019, the Los Cedros Protected Forest authorities won their case for an Action of Protection in the Provincial Court of Imbabura in June 2019, which stripped the mining company Cornerstone Capital Resources of their operating permits.
But he government, working alongside the mining companies, subsequently appealed against the decision, effectively freezing the enactment of the ruling. The mining company has continued to explore in the reserve, in contempt of the law and the June 2019 ruling.
Now, the Constitutional Court has admitted the case to be heard at the highest level of judiciary: as a 'precedent' for application of the Ecuador's unique Rights of Nature laws within legally titled Protected Forests.
In 2008, Ecuador created a new Constitution, the most revolutionary part of which was the legal recognition of the rights of Nature, or Pachamama, to 'exist, persist and thrive.' Ecuador remains the only country in the world to have enshrined these rights. It could now become the first to actually protect large swathes of biodiversity based upon this constitutional innovation, and set an invaluable precedent worldwide.
Defenders of Los Cedros will be presenting arguments that mining in Protected Forests is a violation of Articles 57, 71, and 398 of the Constitution: the collective rights of indigenous peoples, the Rights of Nature, and the right of communities to prior consultation before environmental changes, respectively.
6 plate billed mountain toucan, Los Cedros Reserve. Photo copyright: Murray Cooper
Los Cedros is one of the most biologically diverse habitats on the planet. The protected forest consists of more than 5,000 hectares (nearly 13,000 acres) of primary cloud forest, and it safeguards the headwaters of four important watersheds.
Los Cedros protects at least 206 species with high extinction risk, five of which are regarded as critically endangered by the Ecuadorian government. These include the black and chestnut eagle, the brown-headed spider monkey and the northwestern subspecies of jaguar (see Roy et al. 2018 and the Los Cedros website for more information).
If Los Cedros wins, this will set a precedent for protection 2.4 million hectares of protected forests threatened by mining. It also has the potential to make mining investors shiver, and to give courage to global movements for protection of biodiversity and economic alternatives to extractive industries.
As Ecuador struggles under the weight of economic catastrophe due to Covid, people need to remember that the country's most important asset is its nature, its biodiversity, its pristine watersheds ... and that the Rights of Nature laws are there to protect this asset.
Critically endangered northwestern jaguar. Copyright Murray Cooper
Please hop onto our crowdfund and help us reach our $50,000 target!
New donations up to $10,000 have been matched dollar for dollar by Paul Gilding, former CEO of Greenpeace Australia and Greenpeace International, and John Seed, founder of The Rainforest Information Centre
For more information, visit our brand new website devoted to Los Cedros and the campaign. This contains detailed information about the incredible natural history of the reserve, including lists of birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects (Lepidoptera) and links to iNaturalist.
Download a shareable PDF summary of the campaign here
Don't forget to sign our updated petition to give weight to our voice and the voices of Ecuadorians who want to keep their lands pristine and free of mining!
Mantled howler monkey, Los Cedros Reserve. Photo copyright: Murray Cooper
PREVIOUS CAMPAIGN UPDATES: 2020 AND 2019
JANUARY 2020 - BHP'S AGGRESSIVE PUSH INTO INTAG
This year has started with a lot of intensity for front-liners protecting their rainforests and communities in northwestern Ecuador. BHP, the world's biggest mining company, wants to start exploring for gold and copper in the area, and it appears they are willing to do almost anything to get in, including lie, cheat and surround themselves with military police.
We have been helping fund numerous community assemblies, which have resulted in a legal document containing resolutions to be presented to governmental, human rights and environmental bodies. See this overview of the escalating tensions here; and peruse the MRAG home page for more media links, reports and photos.
See also our recent report in The Ecologist about the situation: here
(image courtesy of Carlos Zorrilla)
JULY 2019 - JAN 2020 OVERVIEW
August 2019: RIC contributed to initial production costs for a major environmental documentary, Marrow of the Mountain (See trailer here). This film is being produced by friend of John Seed, mycologist and campaign supporter Roo Vandegrift. It will focus on Los Cedros and other critically endangered forests in the northwestern Andes of Ecuador. RIC is now a partner of the film and will continue to support its completion.
September 2019: Along with our allies at Mining Watch Canada, RIC donated funds to make a national anti-mining convergence happen in Quito. Our money mainly went to catering and travel for indigenous leaders from the Amazon and people dwelling in the vulnerable high plains ecosystems, all under mining concession. At the meeting we presented an overview of Australian mining company involvement in Ecuador.
Also in September we helped fund an assembly of 1500 people from communities across the Intag province. Video here!
Also in September MRAG got its first ever national news coverage in Australia, with this SBS story about Gina Rinehart's mining debacle in Intag
In October Ecuador erupted in nationwide protests and strikes over austerity measures imposed by the government as part of a new IMF deal.
In October RIC donated funds (mainly from a couple of generous donors) to support the ongoing legal action to stop a gold mine destroying cloud forests at Junín, Intag.
RIC is also supporting Los Cedros Reserve to present a legal action to the Constitutional Court, as mining companies are refusing to honour the April provincial court ruling and leave Los Cedros.
In October and November MRAG targeted the AGMs of SolGold and BHP in Brisbane and Sydney respectively, to present the concerns of embattled Ecuadorians to shareholders.
In December RIC members ran a deep ecology workshop in Melbourne and fundraised $2000 for Ecuador. More workshops to follow in Feb and March in Tassie, and May in Melbourne.
(Image courtesy of Carlos Zorrilla)
FOR MORE INFO ...
Melbourne Rainforest Action Group (RIC's most active RAG): our freshly renovated website is here with full campaign information, latest updates from the ground in Ecuador, media releases and more!
For a December 2019 article addressing the broad neoliberal agenda behind Australian mining companies pushing their way aggressively into developing nations like Ecuador see here: Neoliberalism versus justice on Ecuador's mining frontier - published in FoE Australia's Chain Reaction.
MEDIA, REPORTS, JOURNAL STUDIES
See rainforestactiongroup.org for heaps of up-to-date media releases and reports on mining companies involved
John Seed’s March 2018 article
Jefferson Mecham’s comprehensive paper "Ecuador Endangered by Extreme Extractivism"
New mining concessions will severely decrease biodiversity and ecosystem services in Ecuador (Bitty Roy et al 2018)
Environmental Impact Study from early mining efforts in Junin (1996) (pdf)
Summary of tax and legal deregulations for mining made during Correa administration (Carlos Zorrilla, 2017) (pdf)
Fruta del Norte gold mine in the Ecuadorian Amazon (owned by Canadian Lundin Gold and Australian Newcrest). Image courtesy of Mining Watch Canada
Our involvement with this campaign stemmed from our efforts to protect the Los Cedros Biological Reserve, one of over 40 mega-biodiverse protected forests (Bosques Protectores) currently threatened by mining concessions. RIC has been a stalwart support of Los Cedros since allocating the funds and helping establish the reserve in 1989. Many of the volunteers currently forming the backbone of the campaign are local and international activists and scientists who have been involved with the protection of Los Cedros over many years.
For more background see RIC's 2016 Los Cedros update, created when the mining threat had only just been discovered.
Letter from world scientists attesting to the biological value of Los Cedros
Los Cedros species lists from Bitty Roy, professor of Ecology, University of Oregon
List of Publications from research undertaken at Los Cedros