Home » Ecuador: Rights Group Decries Crackdown on Anti-Mining Protests

Ecuador: Rights Group Decries Crackdown on Anti-Mining Protests

Ecuadorian Activists Face Criminal Charges

by Victor Adetimilehin

Ecuador’s human rights landscape is heating up as an NGO accuses the government of stifling dissent against mining projects. The Ecumenical Human Rights Commission (CEDHU) recently issued strong condemnations against the criminalization of anti-mining protests in two separate incidents.

Environmentalists Jailed, Terrorism Charges Laid

In the first case, CEDHU denounced the sentencing of six environmental activists by the Criminal Court of Bolívar province. The activists received three-year prison terms and a hefty fine for “illicit association” against the Curipamba-El Domo copper-gold project.  Moreover, this project, located in Las Naves canton, is being developed by a Canadian joint venture, Curimining S.A.

The human rights group criticized the use of criminal charges as a tool to silence opposition.  Also, they argue that these charges serve as a “systematic modus operandi” employed by the Ecuadorian state to suppress legitimate protests aimed at protecting water resources, nature, and human rights.

“Terrorism” Label Sparks Outrage

In a separate incident, CEDHU took aim at the Cotopaxi provincial authorities for charging 70 residents with terrorism for protesting against the La Plata mining project. This project is spearheaded by Canadian miner Atico Mining.

According to CEDHU, the trouble began in March 2024 when “shock groups” arrived in local communities to intimidate residents opposed to the project. Clashes erupted between these groups and the police in the context of a government-sponsored environmental consultation related to La Plata.

The terrorism charges have ignited outrage, with CEDHU highlighting the detrimental impact on local families. They argue that such charges expose farmers, who are simply seeking to protect their livelihoods, to a complex and potentially corrupt judicial system.

A History of Contested Consultations

The human rights group further highlighted a recent ruling by the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court, which declared an earlier environmental consultation – also related to mining – as unconstitutional. This earlier consultation, backed by a decree from former president Guillermo Lasso, was ultimately struck down by the highest court in the land.

Both Curimining and Atico Mining were contacted for comment but did not respond by press time. The ongoing tensions underscore the complex relationship between resource development and indigenous rights in Ecuador. While mining projects offer economic opportunities, concerns surrounding environmental damage and community well-being persist.

The role of the Ecuadorian government in facilitating transparent and respectful dialogue between mining companies, local communities, and indigenous groups remains crucial. However, striking a balance between economic development and environmental protection requires a commitment to upholding the rights of those potentially impacted by such projects.

Source: Mining.com

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