High court rejects Azuay mining referendum

Feb 22, 2020 | 4 comments

Azuay Province Prefect Yaku Pérez vowed to continue his fight against mining following the rejection by Ecuador’s Constitutional Court to allow a referendum to end mining in Azuay Province. By a six to two vote, the judges ruled that the petition did meet the constitutional requirements to allow a public vote on the issue.

Anti-mining protesters outside the Constitutional Court on Friday. (El Comercio)

“It’s amazing that a democratic popular consultation initiative can be blocked by the mining empire,” Pérez said following Friday’s decision in Quito, adding that he would take the issue to national and international audiences.

Angry supporters of the referendum said they would stop mining by force if necessary. “The people’s will be honored and the international mining interests will be defeated in Cuenca and Azuay Province,” Roberto Parra said outside the court following the ruling. “You saw what we did with Rio Blanco and if we are forced to, we will use the same civil disobedience to stop other mining projects.” The Chinese-owned Rio Blanco gold and silver mine in the Cajas Mountains west of Cuenca was closed by violent protests in 2018 and has not reopened. The owners have filed a $440 million suit against the government for not protecting the concession.

In its ruling, the court sided with the Ecuador Ministry of Mining and international mining lobby in rejecting a popular referendum on the mining question. The judges claimed that the referendum questions Pérez submitted were vague and failed to distinguish between corporate and artisanal mining. They also said that the government’s right to pursue mining contracts must be protected.

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