Home » Ecuador’s Mining Consultation Manual Sparks Outrage

Ecuador’s Mining Consultation Manual Sparks Outrage

Ecuador's government has issued a new manual to regulate the right to prior consultation for mining projects

by Victor Adetimilehin

Indigenous and environmental groups say that the new manual issued by Ecuador’s government to regulate the right to prior consultation for mining projects violates their rights and threatens their lands.

The manual, published on March 6, 2024, by the Ministry of Energy and Mines, outlines the procedures and timelines for conducting prior, free, and informed consultation with Indigenous and vulnerable communities that could be affected by mining activities.

The manual is based on constitutional standards and international treaties, such as the Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, which recognizes the right of Indigenous peoples to participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives and territories.

However, the manual also states that the results of the consultation process are not binding, meaning that the government can approve mining projects even without the consent of the affected communities.

This has sparked a strong backlash from Indigenous and environmental groups, who say the manual is a violation of their rights and an attempt to impose an extractive agenda on their lands.

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (Cofeniae) stated on March 8, rejecting the manual and accusing President Daniel Noboa of turning their rights into a mere administrative procedure to facilitate the interests of the mining industry.

The statement also said that the manual is unconstitutional and illegal, as it was issued without an organic law that regulates the right to prior consultation, which is a requirement of the Constitution and the Constitutional Court.

The Cofeniae demanded that the manual be repealed and that a genuine dialogue be established with the Indigenous and vulnerable communities to respect their rights and protect their territories from mining activities.

The government, on the other hand, defended the manual as a necessary tool to provide legal certainty and transparency for the mining sector, which is one of the main drivers of the country’s economic development.

The government also argued that the manual follows the principles of good faith, interculturality, and flexibility and that it does not grant veto power to any segment of the population over development policies that affect the entire country.

Ecuador has one of the largest mineral reserves in the world, including gold, copper, silver, and lithium. The country has attracted several foreign investors, especially from Canada, China, and Australia, who are interested in exploring and exploiting its resources.

However, the country also faces significant social and environmental challenges, as many of the mining projects are located in areas of high biodiversity and cultural diversity, where Indigenous and vulnerable communities live and depend on their natural resources for their livelihoods.

The conflict between mining and Indigenous rights has been a source of tension and violence in Ecuador for decades and has intensified in recent years due to the expansion of mining activities and the lack of adequate consultation and participation mechanisms.

The new manual is expected to further escalate the situation, as several Indigenous and environmental groups have announced their plans to resist and mobilize against the mining projects that threaten their lands and rights.

However, some experts and activists also see an opportunity for dialogue and negotiation, as the manual opens a space for the participation and expression of the affected communities, and creates a legal framework that can be challenged and improved.

They also call for the involvement of other actors, such as civil society, academia, media, and international organizations, to monitor and support the consultation process and ensure that it is conducted in a fair, transparent, and respectful manner.

Source: Mining.com 


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