Vice President Jorge Glas said Saturday that Ecuador is requiring “state-of-the-art” precautions to make sure the mining operations cause as little environmental harm as possible. “We are protecting the water and the land better than any government ever has,” he said during the government’s weekly television broadcast. “The complaints against mining are unfounded.”
Glas was responding to recent complaints made by the indigenous Amazonian Nankints and Shuar communities, who have claimed that new mining is polluting the water on their native territorial land.
His response was also aimed at residents of farming communities west of Cuenca who have protested the Rio Blanco mine that opened last week. Cuenca’s municipal council had also objected to Rio Blanco, a gold and silver operation, demanding that more environmental studies be conducted before ground was broken.
“Our 2008 constitution protects our environment and the government is required to take all measures to protect the water and land,” Glas said. He suggested that many of those opposing mining project are opponents of the current administration.
Glas echoed President Rafael Correa’s earlier contention that mining is essential for ending poverty and improving education in Ecuador. “We cannot afford to let these valuable resourses go untapped,”Glas said. “The future of the country depends on their responsible use.”
He repeated Correa’s frequent defense of mining that Ecuador cannot be a “beggar sitting on a sack of gold.”
The indigenous organization CONAIE issued a statement last week claiming that the government has ignored the legal process of consulting with local communities. “This government is a friend of mining and oil companies, and enemy of the nationalities of indigenous people of Ecuador”. The statement went on to suggest that the government allows Chinese companies to avoid strict environmental protection measures. “This government is beholden to the Chinese because of the debt it owes them,” it said.