Ecuador: save the cloud forests for future generations

People protesting with raised fists. Text "Help save our forest" People protesting in the Intag region (© Flora Farruggia / Collage Rainforest Rescue)

Mining projects are endangering the natural treasures of Ecuador – and one of the biggest threats is a planned copper mine in the Intag region. The inhabitants of the rugged cloud forests northwest of the capital Quito are calling on us for help. Please support their petition.

Call to action

To: Mr. Lenin Moreno, President of Ecuador; Ministry of Mines

Defend nature and the rights of indigenous peoples, Mr. President. Reject mining in the Intag region and annul existing mining concessions.

Read letter

The mountainous rain and cloud forests of the Intag region are the habitat of jaguars, spectacled bears and spider monkeys as well as a crucial refuge for amphibians and other small, particularly vulnerable creatures, explain members of DECOIN, an environmental NGO.

In 2016, a species of harlequin frog previously believed to be extinct was rediscovered there. The nocturnal frog Atelopus longirostris is only four centimeters long and lives in the forest reserve of the village of Junin, which was established with funds donated to Rainforest Rescue.

Deep below, in the rock of the Toisan Mountains, lies a copper deposit that the Ecuadorian government intends to exploit. The metal is indispensable for electrical and electronic devices.

Junin and neighboring villages, which are sitting on top of the deposit, would be displaced by the open-pit mine. For the past twenty years, the inhabitants of the Intag region to the northwest of the capital city of Quito have been fighting the plans.

So far, they have been successful – several international mining companies have given up in the face of local resistance. Now, the state-owned Ecuadorian ENAMI and Chilean CODELCO mining companies are planning to exploit the copper.

Local resident Marcia Ramírez explains that the exploratory work alone has already triggered landslides and polluted streams with drilling waste.

Wildlife is becoming increasingly scarce, as the animals are often unable to drink water because of the contamination.

The members of the local organic coffee cooperative AACRI also oppose copper mining in Intag. AACRI, which exports sustainably grown coffee worldwide, says that mining, which pollutes the rich soils and and water sources they depend on, would destroy the future of the cooperative.

Please support the petition of our Ecuadorian friends.

Letter

To: Mr. Lenin Moreno, President of Ecuador; Ministry of Mines

Dear Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are writing to you to express our concern about the growing expansion of mining projects in the Intag region.

Located in the Andean Chocó region, Intag is home to thousands of hectares of uniquely biodiverse primeval forests. The region’s inhabitants have ensured that its 25 rivers have remained pristine in recent decades.

Mining has grave impacts on the environment and people around the world. These include the destruction of nature, the pollution of water sources and the eviction and displacement of rural communities.

A total of 33 mining concessions, covering 80% of the Intag’s total area of 150,000 hectares, have been awarded. The region’s inhabitants have been resisting these plans for more than two decades. In 2017, the mining ministry awarded 80,000 hectares of land to foreign mining corporations, proceeding without the legally required informed consent of the local population. For these reasons, we consider the mining projects to be illegal, inappropriate and unconstitutional.

According to environmental studies carried out by the Japanese Agency for International Cooperation in the 1990s, large-scale mining is causing the destruction of thousands of hectares of forest, desertification, changes in the local climate, water pollution by heavy metals, the displacement of hundreds of families, and other severe environmental and social impacts.

The municipal government of Cotacachi has realized a variety of political and administrative measures to protect the area since 1997. These include activities to promote sustainable production. In a recent decision, it called on the national government to suspend the award of metal-mining concessions in Cotacachi district. Mining is hampering the province in securing a good position in the fields of tourism and agriculture. The 4th Parliament of Imbabura has included this requirement in its motions and observations.

We call upon you to investigate the events in the Intag region and take appropriate action to implement a genuine citizens’ referendum process that respects democratic principles and the decisions made in this regard for future development. Please protect the precious mountain rainforests for future generations.

Yours faithfully,

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