Court suspends mining activities near Cuenca, jeopardizing plans for massive Loma Larga mine

Aug 29, 2023 | 0 comments

In a major victory for indigenous and environmental groups, an Azuay Province court has ordered the suspension of mining activities in the Quimsacocha recreational reserve south of Cuenca. The order puts in jeopardy preparations for the massive Loma Larga mine, previously permitted by the government. The government is expected to appeal the decision.

The Quimsacocha reserve is located south of Cuenca.

Following recent referendum defeats of oil production in the Yasuni National Park and of mining activity near Quito as well as other court orders, the decision is another blow to government plans to expand natural resource extraction in Ecuador.

Environmental activist and former presidential candidate Yaku Pérez celebrated the decision, claiming it will protect the watershed near Cuenca and protect the environment for future generations. “The government violated the constitutionally defined process for allowing mining in the area,” said Pérez. “By law, the local community should have been consulted before the mining concession was granted and it was not.”

In court arguments, the government claimed the Loma Larga mine would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue during the term of its operation. It said the area where the concession is located has some of the largest known gold and silver reserves in the world.

In response, Pérez argued that “there are thing more important than precious metals,” saying that fresh water from the Quimsacocha paramo is essential for farming as well as for drinking water supplies for Cuenca, Tarqui, Girón, Santa Isabel and San Fernando.

In addition to the violations of community consultation rights, the court claimed that environmental impact rules required by law were not followed. “This is an environmentally sensitive area and the studies conducted prior to the issuing of the permits were not adequate,” the court said in its ruling.

Although it was not part of the ruling, Pérez said the mining concession granted by the government also violated the rights of nature guaranteed in the constitution.

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