Protesters gathered Monday outside the mayor’s office in Cuenca demanding that the municipality fight the federal government to stop new mining operations.
The group wanted to meet with Mayor Marcelo Cabrera but met instead with Cuenca Vice-Mayor Ruth Caldas.
Protesters asked why the city had not been more vocal in its opposition to gold and silver mining projects in the Cajas Mountains, west of Cuenca. “The municipal council passed a resolution asking for more environmental studies before mining would be allowed, but they said nothing last week when the Chinese started digging at Rio Blanco,” said a Lauro Sigcha of the indigenous organization ECUARUNARI. “We insist on moratorium on all mining activities.”
Following the meeting, Caldas said the city is considering calling a municipal council meeting to discuss Rio Blanco and other mining projects. “Our position is that the environment comes first,” she said. “We understand the concerns of the people living near the new mines.”
Councilman Carlos Orellana, who attended the meeting, said the council has limited powers to control mining. “The authority rests with Quito, unfortunately. “We wish we could impose a moratorium until we are satisfied that all safeguards are in place, but we can’t. As a council we can send letters and make recommendations, but we do not have final authority,” he said.
Orellana agreed with protestors that the council should be more vocal in its opposition to mining projects.