Constitutional Court could save Australian-Government-funded Reserve in Ecuador from mining

June 30, 2020

A forest reserve in one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, originally set up with Australian Government support and home to over 200 species at risk of extinction, has been scheduled for a landmark legal case. In a precedent-setting move, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador has announced it will take on the case of the Los Cedros Protected Forest, which is threatened by grand-scale copper and gold mining, by using unique Rights of Nature laws enshrined in the constitution. 

Edgar Merlo, who heads the legal team for Los Cedros, says: “The [Constitutional] Court’s ruling in this case would be a first in Ecuador: on the Rights of Nature, the right to prior consultation of communities, and the right to legal certainty, since concessions were granted without respecting the declaration of protective forests. The final judgement by the Constitutional Court in this case could change the legal focus in Ecuador, South America, and the entire world on the Rights of Nature and the rights of local communities, so that mining concessions are not granted in Protected Forests.”

One of the UK’s leading environmentalists, Jonathon Porritt echoed this view: “Ecuador was the first nation to include the Rights of Nature in its constitution,” he said. “It could now become the first nation to protect large swathes of biodiversity, based upon this constitutional innovation. This would set an invaluable precedent worldwide.”

Plate-billed Mountain Toucan. Image credit: Murray Cooper

Los Cedros Biological Reserve in north-western Ecuador was established in 1988 with the help of a grant from the Australian Government’s Development Assistance Bureau and the support of Australian not-for-profit organisation the Rainforest Information Centre.

Los Cedros is one of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world, with more than 4,800 hectares of primary cloud forest, and it safeguards the headwaters of four important watersheds. It protects over 200 species with high extinction risk, five of which are regarded as critically endangered by the Ecuadorian government. (see Roy et al. 2018, iNaturalist, and the Los Cedros website for more information.)

The remoteness and high-quality of the habitat explain why there are six species of cats and three species of primate, including some of the last critically endangered brown-headed spider monkeys in the world, as well as the endangered Andean spectacled bear. New species are also being discovered every year,” explained Dr Mika Peck from Sussex University.

This biodiversity was recognised when the Constitutional Court specifically cited the importance of Los Cedros in preserving the last populations of the spider monkey and the Andean spectacled bear which is in danger of extinction,” says John Seed, founder of the Rainforest Information Centre.

José DeCoux, the manager of Los Cedros says: “Mining in Protected Forests is a violation of the legal status of declared Protected Areas, the collective rights of indigenous peoples, the Rights of Nature, and the right of communities to prior consultation before potential environmental damages.”

Mining concessions in and around Los Cedros Reserve. Image credit: Rainforest Action Group

In 2017, the Ecuadorian government announced new concessions for mining exploration on over 2.4m hectares (6m acres) of land, a roughly 300% increase. Many of these exploratory concessions are in previously protected forests and indigenous territories. Mining exploration is also occurring in headwater ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots of global importance like Los Credos, and appears to be in violation of Ecuadorian law and international treaties.

More than 30% of Protected Forests have been under imminent threat from mining since 2017, when a policy change within the Ecuadorian government allowed these protected lands to be included in mining concessions,” explained Paul Gilding, former Executive Director of Greenpeace Australia and Greenpeace International.

As part of this rapid mining expansion, BHP and Canadian mining company Cornerstone Capital Resources were given mining permits in collaboration with the Ecuadorian state mining company, ENAMI.

The permit for mining was given despite the Ministry of Environment’s own publication citing Los Cedros in its ‘Areas of Priority for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Ecuador’,” says John Seed.

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 companies of their operating permits. The government, working alongside the mining companies, subsequently appealed against the decision.

Meanwhile, the mining company Cornerstone Capital Resources continued exploration within the protected area in direct contravention of the court order, despite overwhelming opposition in the region, and without the appropriate permits.

This case expresses the current conflict between the Ecuadorian government and its intention to open the country’s untapped oil and mineral reserves to foreign investment and the long-held public sentiment in Ecuador against extractionist economic development,” says John Seed.

The case will help determine the balance between short-term economic gains through mining development and the slower — but generally more sustainable — economic development that accompanies long-term biodiversity conservation,” explained John Seed.

“This case has implications not just for Los Cedros, but for all 186 Protected Forests in Ecuador, totalling some 2.4m hectares,” said Dr Bitty Roy, Professor of Biology at the University of Oregon and one of a number of scientists for whom Los Cedros is a research base.

Globally, this is the first case where constitutional protections for nature will be evoked at a national level to protect an ecosystem from large-scale mining. Ecuador remains the only country in the world to have enshrined these rights in its Constitution. It is also a country that has recently attracted a massive amount of interest from transnational mining companies, who see vast potential in its mineral wealth, particularly copper and gold.

Australia is Ecuador’s biggest investor, with companies like SolGold, BHP, Newcrest, Hancock Prospecting, Fortescue Metals, Titan and Tempus Resources pouring millions into copper and gold exploration.

Around 2 million hectares of legally Protected Forests across the country are currently covered by mining exploration concessions. Australian mining companies stand to be impacted by any positive ruling on the case, with at least 67 concessions covering, in whole or part, Indigenous territories or Protected Forests.

Aussie miner SolGold would be most impacted by the ruling, with 19 concessions covering Protected Forests and 18 covering Indigenous territories.

Full media release here.

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  • subramanian periyasame
    commented 2020-09-30 22:30:42 +1000
    To The director
    Rain forest information center,
    Box 681, Nimbin, NSW 2480,
    Cordial greeating from RDAS, Tamilnadu.
    We submit one project proposal on Native tree nursery rainsing and dry hill reforestation development at Thanimalai Hill rain forest movement and soil erosion and community dry land development to be carried out melcheettipattu lake bund 1 km both side tree planting in Tiruvannamalai Block of Tiruvannamalai District.
    The same is waiting for approval font your auide your office in nean timeat Tiruvannamalai and village discussed woemns eco village group 5 villages member involved project vegarding various issues and block developoffice and village administration office and colleage student shanmuga arts and science collage and annand arts and science college botony student involved tree planting and fire control vollantree service students 127 nos planting Thanimalai Rain forest movement 5000 nos Tree planting 47.50 acres. Top level and melcheetipattu lake bund both side 1500 nos Tree planting soil Eroson control and birds and inmals Eco village project in the year starting first rain starting sir, next month tree planting ideas in and around Tiruvannamalai district dry land Hills lake side.
    RDAS/RIC, Tree planting ECO village project 2019-2021 project 6500 tree planting two areas. 1.Thanimalai Hill Replanting Rain forest movement and Melcheettipattu lake bund both side 1500 seedlings planting ECO village project, planting work and past 6 year age planting areas replanting and main tain that our project proposal was fully scrutinized by your self and also received letter regarding this programme and finally expresseal that our aims are is clear way and ppreciable one to prepare one proposal for approved the same to be implemented in only ECO village project 5 villages of the same block and urban area also benefited as model project creating and maintain nursery work also starting new seeding raising 50000 nos n the year planting seeding 6500 seeding RDAS / RE planting your als willing to support that type of proposal at one.
    Hence, now we prepare on environmental ECO village refgorestation and preservation soil eroson contral to be implement in thanimalai hill, and melchettipattu lake bund both side, tree planting and maintain all our tree planting areas, replanting and community land in melkachirappattu 9.50 acres, in the year planting area also maintain. We submit the same for your kind consideration we have to implement this proposed programme in consuoltant in and coordinator guidance with Mr. Arun or Devgoogai sir tiruvannamalai visiting sir any time contact sir.
    We received a good monsoon strating tree planting work and ECO village nursery work on going and maintain all trees areas.
    We are in and around tiruvannamalai district good rainy season august to December 2019-2020 due to changing of present climate in india and heavy rain was falling in the year all lake water is available tiruvannamalai.
    We request sir that, kindly consider our proposal favorable and needed financial assistance to implement 2019-2020 the programme may also kindly be send to us as early as possible.
    The implementing organization
    P.Subramanian, Secrefary Rural Development Afforestation society Melkachirapattu village meyyur post – 606753
    Tiruvannamalai Talk and District, Tamilnadu, India, Email:[email protected]

    Legal status of the applying organization
    The applying organization legally register under the government of number 27 of 1975 vide its registration enclosed registration number 56/1995 year with this registration.
    Contact person name and address and designation.
    E-MAIL: [email protected]

    The applying organization secretary is having it experience is the tree planting, reforestation, Afforestation permaculture two level trainer and permaculture teaching. Environmental development, Nursery work, Agroforestry, rainforest movement seed boll planting when rain is coming child planting seed boll plant in our areas lak bund community land and hill areas road side school level ECO village members education to children and parents level every day one school each school Eco village members 30 to 50 village, past 1993 rain forest information arunachala rainforestation to now day 2019 having p.Subramanian, having 26 years experience and planting trees around 15 villages 650000 Trees planted and farmers direct benefited free of cost seeding distributing service experience.
    RDAS organization members having much experience all of them farmer family and tree planting involve in tree planting ECO village reforestation reaforestation soil erosion controls and water conservation native tree seed collecting native medical plants collecting 756 nos in our area eastern goads area collect and rasising seeding and eco village environmental cultural education children care for future global warmig and in our area more members permacultre way of farmers organic cultivaton following Mr. Bill mollison way of all the infarmers trained trainer members cultivation and native bady cultilating permaculture activities and permacultre inforamtin soil and water conser vation activites in the pas 26 years having much more trained and giving to local farmers training above activities in the tree planting waste land lake bund road side dry land hills community land school land temple land all the areas creating reforest acivities.
    RDAS giving ECO village members getting training for permaclture agroforestry promoting native tress all our activites direct benefit small farmers get training and seeding distributing each villages 1500 to 2000 ECO village members planting farmers land development programme and school NSS student ECO village members all our activities involving.
    RDAS/RIC Reforestation and reaffore station activites tree planting every year 5000 to 6000 tees planting native trees and maintainces RDAS / RIC financial asstance.
    RDAS organization only one main donor Mr.John seed Director of rain forest information centre Australia.
    Reforestation reafforestation Eco village Project tree planting programme is on going every year in and around target village level Eco village members school student participant tree planting school compound temple land community waste land free seeding planting and local villages women grou maintain nursery work and seed collecting native trees and herbal trees.
    Community waste land free seedlings district buting Eco village members planting and local small farmembrs land planting programme each year 20 to 25 farmers fodesataton each former 500 nos seeding free of cost distributing 2020-2021 starting in this programme when seedling ready than district buting.
    RDAS/RIC plantation motivation to the school children and treachers participants.
    RDAS Planted in the village around Melcheetipattu, meyyur, pallipattu, kannakurugi, saval poondi, nallvanpalaym, kilannaikakari all area 10000 seeding 2019-2020 to the village level eco village members going to planning and maintain all the school teachers administration here with this request for you kind reference.
    RDAS/Organizatoin request from financial assistance RIC/Earth ways foundation USA, your partner donor consider our appeal we need reforestation project 5000 seeding planting and maintation one year rs. 240000 and nursery development work project. Setting up a nursery of native plant species in Tiruvannamalai District of arunachala Greevalam.
    Activates: Seed collection of diverse native species will be undertaken at different time of the year depending on the flowering and fruiting time of indiveual speices, support will be provided to landless dhalith people foe seed collection. Seed banks of forest plant species wil be set up in each block for distribution of seed to dhalith families. In frastructure for the nursery will be gradually established near Tiruvannamalai. Flowering and fruiting times of native plant species will be dem ented to aidin collection of seeds of native trees temple trees climbers, Herbs, Shrubs, Christmas trees etc., Tiruvannamalai Block This will serve as the main nursery for rainsing native trees as well as rare and difficult to propagate plant species. The infrastrutre will consist of a well for water pump and pipeline for watering of saping low cost accommonation fencing storage eum work sheeds for seeds beds and saplings etc. Small ‘ECO village Nurseries’ will also set up in the arunachala greevalam road gide Tiruvannamalai block depending on the requirement of sapings in a particular area. Work will be intiafed for experimentation on seed treatment seed germination and raising of difficult to propagate plants form cuttings. The task of raising sapings will be handed over to a local women ‘Eco village Group’ EVG instead of appointing OWN staff to manage the nursery. The ECO village women group will be pain on a persapling basis. Members of ECO village women Group will under take all the work for managing the nursery. About 10000 to 50000 saplings of different native plant species will be raised in the nursery in the first year. A tentative list of native plant species to be grown in the nursery is given in Tiruvannamalai District. Splings will be grouped in to specific packages. Eg. School package and community land, lake bound hills road side, Grevalam road side temple land plants uncultibvated foods, gum, bearing plants, landless families. Small farmers dalith community dry land, backyard garden etc. The saplings will be grown by dhalith families in and around village dhalith people will take responsibility to protech and nutre the saplining. Another innovative approach would be to promote, ‘ECO Village Nurseries’ where individual families will grow and nurture 50 to 100 saplings of different plant speies RDAS/RIC will provide poly bages and seeds packets to the families. Rost of the work for setting up the small nurseries will be done by dhalith families about 500 to 1000 ECO village nurseries will be setup in the first year. RDAS/RIC will make special efforts to involve school students. Collage student in growing of native trees orientation programmes will be organized in school to create ‘ECO village Group’ avarness about the importance and relevance of native plants as opposed to commercial plantitons with exotic species. Thanimalai area, Kill Annaikarai. Indra Nagar, Anna nagar, Savalpoondi village and urban areas meetings will be orga nised in village to discuss issues related to control of thanimalai hill forest fires grazing by cattle and harvesting of yougng trees for fire wood.

    EXPECTED OUTCOMES Most importantly a nursery of native plant species will pose a challenge to the forest department, policy of relying on exotic species for plantations on forest land hills lake bund. It can from the basis for a dialoges with various involved in promoting tree growing in the region. The nursery will play an important role in improving availability of seeds and sapling of diverse native plant species Dhacith familes in Tiruvannamalai District. Growing of trees on private, comman and forest land will strengthen. The on going land Hills vights work of Tiruvannamalai Dalaith Community land rights RDAS. Promotion and plantation native species will contribute to biodiversity conservation in the region. Growing of varied native trees on private land, Road side, Lake bund Hills, commonland and forest land will contribute to improved livelihoods for Dhalith people, including land loss families depending on collection and sale of forest produce for their substance.

    RDAS EMERGED as a NGO out of adpconcern of the founder members to the plight of ECO Village farmers. Dhalith community, Tiruvannamalai district members of the Dhalith community continue to live in object poverty and desolation despite concerted efforts by government agencies. RDAS was established in 1995 to address issues of concertn to the RDAS and there Dhalith communities in Tiruvannamalai District.

    RDAS/Subramanian, permaculture promoting activities, School, Collage, loacal farmers land promoting perma culture, to promote economic, Social Educational and cultureal, Development ECO village, ECO club villages of Tiruvannamalai District. The focus is on emplowering the Dhalith community for ECO village self help and self – reliance.

    RDAS has a team of 3 full time staff 15 volunteers and villages level ECO village members 180 nos and village level animators engaged in all the activities related to land rights, level hoods and revival of Dhalith culture and traditions RDAS team has been implementing activites related to land rights and lively hoods in 5 Block of Tiruvannamalai District over the past 2003 to 2019-16 years.

    Legal information about RDAS is as shown below.
    Legal status Registered Society / Non-Government organization
    Year of Estabiishment 1995, march
    Non – Profit Status RDAS is registered as a non – Governmental organization, Act – Registed 27 of /1970 No. 56/1995 (Societies Registration act, Regest)
    Bank Account No.

    Bank Name IOB, Indian Overses Bank
    Bank Branch IOB, Big Street main Branch
    Bank Address IOB Big Street
    Pin – 606 601.

    Swift code

    S.No. Basis Mount Expencess Source Local Requested From Donors Budget
    1 Nursery Pipeline watering arrangement Rs.1500 15000 15000
    2 Low cost storage cum work shed 400sq.ft Rs. 15000 45000 60000
    3 Low – cost nursery sheds 2 Rs.55000 5000 50000 55000
    4 Fencing of nursery area barbed wire live fence with Thorny plants. Rs.22000 Rs.2000 20000 22000
    5 Tools Equpments for nursery Rs.16500 16500 Rs.16500
    6 Mud for nursery Bags Rs.17500 17500 Rs.17500
    7 Compost and farmer manure for nursery Rs.12000 12000 Rs.12000
    8 Lastic bags for saplings 250 kg @125 per Rs.31250 Rs.31250
    09 Seed collection seed purchase Rs.25000 lamp sum Rs.25000 Rs.25000
    10 Salary of supervisor for nursery 1 person
    Rs.1000 120000 Rs120000
    11 Payment to women SHG fro growings of saplings 10000 saplings
    Rs.10 per sapling 100000 Rs.100000
    12 Administrative expenses, stationery, travel by cycle and nos phone food etc. Lum-sum
    Rs. 3000 per month Rs.36000 Rs.36000
    22000 488250 510250

    Ground Request from donor Mr.Johnseed, RIC, AUSTRALIA
    Rs: 488250
    October, 1st 2019 1st Part Request Rs: 250000
    March 1st 2020 11nd part Request Rs: 233250
    RDAS/Local Contribution Rs: 22000
    Thanking You Yours Sincerely


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