Violence erupts as government attempts to shut down mining; miners call it an attack on indigenous rights

Nov 8, 2013 | 0 comments

Ecuador Vice President Jorge Glas on Friday denounced illegal mining as a growing scourge a day after a violent confrontation between soldiers and miners in an Amazonian region left one civilian dead and nine soldiers wounded.

The violence occurred after soldiers attempted to confiscate river dredges and dislodge mostly indigenous miners in the province of Morona Santiago, about 200 miles southeast of Quito, the capital. Foreign mining concerns and small-scale miners, often without permits, have ramped up gold-mining projects in the region in recent years.

"These are armed and dangerous delinquents in organized mafias who are ready to kill to continue their illegal activities," Vice President Glas told the state-owned Internet news website Ecuadorinmediato after visiting the wounded soldiers at a Quito military hospital. "But we aren't going to let them."

But an organization of Amazonian indigenous communities known as GONOAE in a statement Friday defended its right to mine as a matter of sovereignty and called the government's action "dehumanizing." The soldiers' move against miners represented a government assault on its people, the group said.

"We aren't defending illegality," the group said. "We have reiterated on numerous occasions the need to legalize small-scale mining and that any government intervention on indigenous territory should be coordinated … to look for solutions and avoid the spilling of blood."

As the prices of gold, silver and other precious metals have skyrocketed in recent years, illegal mining has become an increasing environmental, health and organized-crime problem for Ecuador and other countries, including Colombia and Venezuela.

Vast jungle and marsh areas across South America have been obliterated by hydraulic mining techniques used in legal and illegal operations. Rivers have been polluted with mercury and other chemicals used to separate gold from ore. In Colombia, suspected leftist rebels and criminal bands have taken over mining sites to extort money from those prospecting for gold.

Informal prospecting is also often accompanied by social problems, with miners and their families at times going without healthcare, social security or access to education.

Credit: Los Angeles Times,


Byron Quito – DentastiQ


Blue Box

Google ad

The Cuenca Dispatch

Week of November 26 

Update: Wayra Plaza opens with all of Corporación Favorita brands under one roof.

Read more

The turbulent insecurity legacy of Guillermo Lasso’s government.

Read more

Ministry of Energy unveils new plan to battle energy shortage.

Read more

In shocking move, Vice President Abad ordered to move to Ecuadorian Embassy in Tel Aviv and become ‘a collaborator for peace’.

Read more

Richard Lavery

Google ad

Gypsy Tv


Fund Grace

Subscribe to our newsletter

Cuenca High Life offers on-line publications, local translated news, and reports about the expat life and living in Ecuador. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!