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Perez files request for Azuay Province anti-mining referendum with the Constitutional Court

The prefect of Azuay province, Yaku Perez, filed a request Tuesday with the Constitutional Court calling for a referendum on banning mining for metals within the province. Azuay Province includes Cuenca, the country’s third largest city with a population of 650,000.

Azuay Province Prefect Yaku Perez

Perez and several Azuay Province mayors participated in a march to the Constitutional Court, where they presented the request for the referendum.

In September 2019, the Constitutional Court denied another referendum request, citing “clerical errors” but without considering the mining issue. Perez said he was convinced that “sooner or later” there would be a referendum on mining in the southern Ecuadorian province.

The referendum questions “are not generic, they have a purpose based on constitutionality and rights of local jurisdictions in Ecuador to determine their futures,” Perez said in a press conference. He added that the Constitutional Court would not have any “pretext” now to deny the request.

The new proposed referendum would have two questions – the original one calling for a ban on the mining of metals of all kinds near the province’s water sources and an additional question asking whether mining rights granted prior to the referendum should eventually expire.

“Many of these concessions were made during an administration that was much more corrupt and one of the most extraction-oriented in the history of the Republic of Ecuador,” Perez said.

The provincial official said that “as a result, you have to apply what the constitution prescribes – the right of repetition. If the multinationals want to sue the state, perfect, sue, but there is the right of repetition, under which former President (Rafael) Correa will have to be first in line.”

Perez said the administration of Correa, a democratic socialist who was in office from 2007 to 2017, engaged “in a clear irregularity,” granting “mining (concessions) in the territories of indigenous peoples,” without consulting residents prior to awarding mining rights as required by the constitution.

Prosecutors have accused Correa, who leads the opposition to President Lenin Moreno’s administration from exile in Belgium, of several counts of corruption while he ws in office.

“Ecuador, sooner or later, will be declared a territory free of metallic mining,” Perez said. A total of 815 mining concessions have been granted in Azuay and Perez said this meant that “one-quarter of the territory” is committed to mining for metals.

Mining experts say that the province potentially contains the countries largest deposits of gold and silver.

The Ecuadorian government expects to earn $3.8 billion in investment in the mining industry per year, which is projected to account for four percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2021. The country’s mining ministry says it will fight Perez’s request for a referendum, saying that local oversight of mining will harm the national interest.

The Constitutional Court has 30 days to respond to the request submitted by Perez, who said he was optimistic about the way things would turn out and hoped the referendum would be held before the 2021 presidential election.

He added that if the request was once again denied, he would organize a national referendum on mining.

Metallic mining, according to the Mining Ministry, is an extractive activity designed to obtain metals ranging from basic (copper, lead, zinc), to ferrous (iron, cobalt, titanium) and precious (gold, silver, platinum), as well as radioactive (plutonium, uranium, radium).

Credit: EIN News,

4 thoughts on “Perez files request for Azuay Province anti-mining referendum with the Constitutional Court

  1. Is there a country in the world that has banned mining of every type of mineral ? he wants to import everything ? all of the artisans that make jewelry will have to import the gold and silver …. all metal for construction would be imported. go back to thatched roof cottages ? very idealistic. I agree with protecting the environment and particularly the water resources … if the water can’t be protected then no mining should happen. seems the illegal miners in Peru and Ecuador have done more damage than what a legal leaseholder would do if forceful protections were built into their leases.

    1. That’s a good point about illegal miners – typical problem in a Latin culture. There is an environmental tradeoff when extracting minerals and it usually comes down to the locals defending their resources. I’m very grateful that I can drink water straight from the tap here in Cuenca. For that reason alone, I totally support Yaku Perez’s call for a ban mining minerals in Azuay. As the saying goes… not in my backyard!

  2. Am I wrong to think that in today’s tech world and with scientific advancements, that mining can’t be accomplished using water safety practices? With all our modern technology I would think we could mine efficiently and keep the environment pure. I am old enough to remember the strip mining industry in West Virginia in the 50s and 60s that blew off mountain tops and polluted streams. The practice was eventually stopped with reforestation and policies in place to clean the water and practices that protected the environment. Surely we have the ability to protect the water in Azuay.

    1. Remember, we’re in Ecuador. There is more of a chance that projects go south, not only from the lack of modern technology but from corruption of those in charge, taking shortcuts, etc.. Clean, potable water is very fragile and almost non-existent in this country. If water becomes polluted from chemicals used in mining operations, it might not ever be safe to drink again, at least not in our lifetime.
      I spent time in the US working in the NYC watershed. The city buys as many acres as they can and then restricts the land use. I can assure you that mining would never be allowed within that watershed.

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