In a major victory for local residents and environmentalists, an Azuay Provincial Court judge ordered all activity suspended at the Kimsakocha gold and silver mine south of Cuenca. The judge ruled that local communities of Tarqui, Victoria de Portete and Girón, were not consulted before mining work began.
Cuenca attorney and former presidential candidate Yaku Pérez, who represented residents, hailed the decision as a “victory for human rights and clean water” and but said the judge’s decision will probably be appealed by the government. “We were on firm constitutional standing in this case and expected this decision,” he said. “The constitution requires that the interests of the people be respected but, in this case, the authorities failed.”
In his comments following the ruling, Judge Carlos Cárdenas said contact by the government with the communities near the Kimsakocha mine — also known as Loma Larga — was “perfunctory” and did not meet the standard set by the constitution. “Residents have the right to protect themselves against mining activity that threatens their natural resources and way of life,” he said.
Patricio Vargas, president of the Mining Chamber of Azuay said he would wait to see the judge’s written decision before deciding to appeal. “We are disappointed and believe the law was followed but must read the full text of the decision.”
Permits for the mine were issued during the government of former president Rafael Correa but had been supported by the Lenin Moreno and Guillermo governments as well.
At a press conference, Pérez called the judge’s ruling a “historic victory” but said the fight is not over for Kimsakocha or other mines in Azuay Province. “We won today and four years ago at Río Blanco but we know the government will not give up. We must prepare for future fights.”
Characterizing the anti-mining movement as David battling the Goliath of the government and big mining companies, Pérez said “big money” interests will continue their pursuit of profits. “We are confronting the Mining Ministry, the mining chambers of Cuenca, Quito and Ecuador, as well as the Ministry of the Environment, which should be on our side,” he said. “We are also battling the presidents who are intent of extracting gold and silver at the expense of poor and indigenous people.”
Following the ruling, Vargas said that mining companies and the government have the right to pursue mining interests in a “legal and responsible manner” and warned against local communities depriving the country of needed assets. “Money from mining helps fund education, health care and highways and we cannot put the interests of the minority ahead of that of the majority.”