By a five to two vote, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court rejected a request to allow a public referendum on mining in Azuay Province. The request had been submitted by Azuay Prefect Yaku Pérez who favors banning most mining in the province.
In its ruling, the court said that “the question regarding the request of the citizen initiative to request a popular consultation, entered to this court by Mr. Yaku Pérez Guartambel, does not guarantee the full freedom of voters and is not supported by the constitution.”
The court also said that a vote to restrict mining would jeopardize a number of large projects that are already in progress or are in exploratory stages in the province. According to the mining ministry, Azuay Province contains more gold and silver reserves than any other province in the country. In total, 812 mining concessions have been granted in the province with more than 200 within the municipal boundaries of Cuenca, most of them in the Cajas Mountains.
The referendum was opposed by the national chambers of mining and commerce which argued that mining should be administered at the national, not the local level. Following the court decision, Perez said he would lead a national campaign to allow a popular vote on mining.