Ecuador Grants Open-Pit Mining Permits in One of the World’s Most Biodiverse Areas

Protesters march against mining on March 22, 2018, near Mindo, Ecuador. (Photo: Sophie Moon)Protesters march against mining on March 22, 2018, near Mindo, Ecuador. (Photo: Sophie Moon)

Mindo is a small village in the lush, tropical cloud forest that descends from the Andes to the coast just outside of Quito, Ecuador. The cloud forest is home to an abundance of wildlife, such as brightly colored lizards, wild cats, spectacled bear, and over 600 species of birds. Mindo was recently named one of the top 10 places to birdwatch in the world by National Geographic, and those who live there are known for their conservationist stances and fights against oil corporations. The area is so rich in biodiversity that it has won the Audubon Christmas bird count competition seven times with the highest number of species.

Last week, Mindo residents were among the thousands who took to the streets all across Ecuador in a march to the presidential palace in Quito, to demand an end to mining. Mining has existed since pre-Incan times in the metal-rich landscapes of these tropical forests, but until the 1980s, the projects were small-scale and much lower impact. Over the past year, however, the government has been distancing itself from its conservationist stance and has opened huge portions of land to corporations interested in running large-scale open-pit mining projects.

A Green-crowned Woodnymph in Tandayapa Valley, near Mindo, Ecuador. (Photo: Sophie Moon)A green-crowned woodnymph in Tandayapa Valley, near Mindo, Ecuador. (Photo: Sophie Moon)

In the past few months, these corporate land grabs have intensified. In November 2017, local governments across northwestern Ecuador received letters from the mining corporations informing them that thousands of acres of forest had been signed away in more than 40 contracts with the central government. The Ministry of Mining had not consulted with communities and Indigenous nations before signing these contracts. This constitutes a violation of the Ecuadorian constitution passed in 2008 on several counts. Sumak Kawsay, a tenet of the constitution (meaning “life at its fullest” in Quechua), guarantees the right to live in peace and…

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