Quito Family Court Judge Ximena Barragán has rejected an appeal by the mining ministry to prevent a public referendum on the proposed Loma Larga mining project. The mine site, located about 20 miles southwest of Cuenca near the Quimsacocha community, is said to contain large deposits of gold and silver.
The government argued that the National Electoral Council (CNE), which authorized the referendum, did not follow rules requiring it to first be reviewed by the Constitutional Court. Barragán ruled that the court did not act in a timely manner and that CNE had the right to move forward with its approval.
Government attorneys said they would file another appeal.
Ironically, the Constitutional Court, Ecuador’s highest court, has not been able to conduct any legal business since mid-2018 when its members were dismissed by the Citizen Participation Council (Cpccs), which was authorized to review the national courts by the February 2018 national referendum. A new Constitutional Court was seated February 5 and faces a backlog of thousands of cases.
The court decision to allow the referendum to proceed was celebrated by environmental groups and community organizations that oppose mining. Lauro Sigcha, anti-mining leader, said that this “opens up the possibility for the Ecuadorian people to be consulted each time a new mining operation is proposed.”
Unless the government is successful in a re-appeal, residents of Giron Canton, where Quimsacocha is located, will vote on the future of the Loma Larga mine in the March 24 election.