Northwestern jaguar subspecies - critically endangered in Ecuador
Welcome to the Ecuador Endangered campaign!
For almost five years, the Rainforest Information Centre and our Australian and international allies have been supporting rural and Indigenous communities to resist grand-scale copper and gold mining in some of the world's most biodiverse regions.
In 2017 it was found that around a third of Ecuador's land mass has been sold to international and overseas mining companies for copper and gold exploration - without the consent of the public. Over two million hectares of this land includes legally protected forests and Indigenous territories.
This is a human rights and environmental catastrophe in the making. If even some of these mining projects go ahead, thousands of endangered species risk extinction.
100% of funds support frontline communities in Ecuador with campaigning, scientific research, legal funds and community organising to protect their lands, forests and livelihoods
The iconic and endangered Andean Spectacled Bear
Through our campaign, we have raised and sent over $80,000 to Ecuador's frontlines who are defending their communities, waterways, mega-biodiverse ecosystems and human rights against this onslaught of extraction and greed.
Campaign volunteers have also conducted research, written reports and media articles, disseminated information about mining companies to those on the ground so they can be better informed, and done direct actions at mining company headquarters and investment forums in Australia.
As of 2022 the fight continues, as mining companies push their way in all over the country trying to secure their investments. Hence our campaign continues to run strong, and we are still welcoming support on all levels.
Toisán Range cloud forest, Intag, Ecuador
Grassroots resistance to mining in Ecuador is strong. The international campaign has developed at a fast pace, responding as needed in support of community mobilisations and legal battles.
RIC is mainly working with communities in the northwestern part of the country, where Australian companies such as BHP, SolGold and Hanrine (Hancock Prospecting) threaten mega-biodiverse forests, farming communities, water-source areas and the lands of the Awá Indigenous people.
For more information about the damage that grand-scale mining will do to biodiversity and ecosystem services across Ecuador, read this 2018 research paper published in the Journal of Tropical Conservation.
For an overview of Australian involvement in this catastrophe, read: Australian mining companies plunder Ecuador's gold and copper
Los Cedros River. Image: Murray Cooper
CAMPAIGN NEWS: A WIN FOR LOS CEDROS!
The court ruling was a world first for forests under threat of major extractive industries. Seven out of nine judges chose to uphold Ecuador's unique Rights of Nature constitutional laws, as well as to protect four major waterways and the rights of local communities to a clean and safe environment. As a result of the ruling, two mining companies - Cornerstone Capital resources (Canada) and ENAMI (Ecuador) lost their environmental licences to operate within the reserve.
The decision cannot be appealed. Most importantly, this ruling sets a legal precedent for over 2 million hectares of protected forests across Ecuador. Other legislative implications will complicate things for mining companies who have until now been given free rein to hold a massive copper investors' party over one third of the country's land mass.
This win would not have been possible without the hundreds of people who donated to help the Rainforest Information Centre cover the legal fees for the case - so a big thank you from the campaign team and all species who call the reserve home!
Visit here for more info about the Los Cedros campaign and forest! Read about the incredible natural history of the reserve, including lists of birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects.
In this 5-minute video John Seed, founder of the Rainforest Information Centre, explains what is special about Los Cedros and why we've fought so hard to protect it.
Letter from world scientists attesting to the biological value of Los Cedros
List of Publications from research undertaken at Los Cedros
Pristimantis cedros. Image: Morley Read
What's next for the campaign?
The Los Cedros precedent has been a huge boost to anti-mining and conservation efforts across Ecuador.
But we still have a lot of work to do in supporting other frontlines with advocacy, funds and resources, and letting the world know that it's not okay to plunder one of the world's most biodiverse countries for profit.
Over 2022-23 we are continuing to support the team at Los Cedros Reserve to set up legal and governance structures so this irreplaceable ecosystem can be protected for future generations of all species.
In addition, we continue to provide advocacy and emergency funds for several other communities in northwestern Ecuador, who are using the Los Cedros precedent to mobilise and lodge legal cases to defend their forests, waterways and livelihoods.
Just north of Los Cedros, the Intag Valley and surrounding cloud forests are part of the same global biodiversity hotspot, with hundreds of endemic and endangered species.
Watch this video showcasing the amazing biodiversity of the Intag region! Narrated by John Seed.
Unfortunately the region is covered in mining concessions - several of them owned by Australian companies including BHP, SolGold and Hancock Prospecting (Hanrine).
Contaminated water from exploration drilling at Cascadas Las Gemelas, Junín, Ecuador. Local communities have been resisting mining here for nearly four decades and continue to fight for their biodiversity, farming livelihoods and ecotourism businesses. Image: Carlos Zorilla
We are continuing to assist community resistance against the entry and destructive activities of mining companies in Intag and other areas of northwestern Ecuador.
We have helped fund several regional assemblies, leading to a resolution among Intag residents for the region to be declared a Mining Free Zone - a Sanctuary of Life. This motion is now enshrined in local legal ordinances.
In 2022 we are helping to support three legal cases against mining companies in the Intag and Cahuasquí regions. The cases will challenge the illegally-awarded concessions on the basis of lack of prior consultation and violations of constitutional rights, as well as specific actions by companies which have resulted in violence and human rights abuses against people who don't want mining in their lands.
Plaintiffs intend to use precedents set by the Los Cedros ruling pertaining to the rights of water, and the human rights to a clean and healthy environment.
Regional Assembly against mining in Apuela, Intag, September 2019. Photo provided by Carlos Zorilla
Putting Ecuador's mining problems on the global map
In 2021, we collaborated with international alliance Yes to Life No to Mining, to put the serious mining situation in Ecuador on the global map with regard to the push for copper for the "Green Energy" revolution. Mining companies - especially Australian - are greenwashing their environmental and human rights abuses in Ecuador in terms of needing to mine critical minerals for net zero.
This report published by two of our campaigners details violent scenes in the small town of Buenos Aires, where the company Hanrine (owned by Australia's richest person, Gina Rinehart) forced its way into the community.
In November we ran a workshop at the COP26 People's Conference, bringing frontline speakers from Ecuador to join mining activists from other parts of the global north and south impacted by Australian mining companies.
Police line up to violently evict protestors in the town of Buenos Aires, August 2021. Hundreds of community members were peacefully blocking the road to prevent entry of personnel from mining company Hanrine. Image courtesy of BUPROE.
Visit here for more information, including news, media releases, reports and interactive maps, produced by our amazing volunteers at the Melbourne Rainforest Action Group (MRAG), who have tirelessly driven the Ecuador Endangered campaign from its beginning.
MRAG has a focus on the Australian mining companies plundering Ecuador, and works to build solidarity in Australia as well as supporting frontlines in Ecuador.
Would love to help? We sometimes need volunteers for the following things:
- English to Spanish, and Spanish to English translation of documents
- Specialised skills such as GIS/KML mapping
- Video editing and subtitling
Speaker at blockade of IMARC (International Mining and Resources Conference) in Melbourne, Australia, 2019 - Tjiwarl woman Vicky Abdullah. Image: Melbourne Rainforest Action Group
SUMMARY OF CAMPAIGN HIGHLIGHTS 2019-2020
BHP'S AGGRESSIVE PUSH INTO INTAG
It was an intense beginning to 2020 for front-liners protecting rainforests and communities in northwestern Ecuador.
BHP, the world's biggest mining company, proved they were willing to do almost anything to get into communities to start their drilling - including lying, cheating and surrounding themselves with military police.
RIC helped to fund numerous community assemblies, which resulted in a legal document containing resolutions to be presented to governmental, human rights and environmental bodies.
Peruse the MRAG home page for more media links, reports and photos.
See also our report in The Ecologist: here
Resisting BHP in the community of Cazarpamba, 2020. Image: Carlos Zorrilla
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.
Also in September MRAG got its first ever national news coverage in Australia, with an 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 also supported Los Cedros Reserve to present a legal action to the Constitutional Court, as mining companies continued to refuse 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 followed in Feb and March in Tassie, and May in Melbourne.
A new wave of nationwide protests against newly incumbent president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, in 2021. Lasso was responsible for signing executive orders to quickly expand the mining roll-out across the country in conjunction with austerity measures, to pay huge debts to the International Monetary Fund.
VISIT US ON SOCIAL MEDIA
MEDIA, REPORTS, STUDIES
See rainforestactiongroup.org for up-to-date media releases and reports on mining companies involved
For an 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.
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)