Ecuador: Stop the mining industry’s violence against women!

A colorful mural of plants and an indigenous woman on the walls of a small building with the inscription: “Let’s defend the water without fear” Activists painted this building, writing “Let’s defend the water without fear” (© Accion Ecológica) View of a gathering of local people outside simple buildings A gathering of women after the murder (© Acción Ecológica) Mountain landscape with white clouds hugging the ground and above in the sky Mountain landscape in the Rio Blanco area (© Acción Ecológica) Closed entrance gate to a mine tunnel with protest graffiti Gate to a mine tunnel with graffiti: “You didn't ask the people. Miners out. This is the territory of the village community. Mining will not be tolerated.” (© Acción Ecológica)

Alba Bermeo Puin was five months pregnant when she and her unborn child were killed by gunmen on October 22. She leaves her family and community in a state of deep shock and grief. This is the third recent attack on women resisting mining in the province of Azuay.

Call to action

To: the Ecuadorian National Assembly, public prosecutor, Constitutional Court and the governorship of Azuay Province

“Stop mining violence immediately – justice for Alba Bermeo Puin – the Ecuadorian state must take responsibility and act”

Read letter

Women are particularly vulnerable to violations of their rights. In mining areas, the violence that often prevails adds to the usual stresses in women’s lives – sometimes with very serious consequences.

The increasing violence in Ecuador that culminated in the murder of Alba Bermeo is by no means an isolated case, but a number of events leading up to a predictable death. There is a clear pattern of violence related to mining.

A few days earlier, there had been two attacks on women from the community of San Pedro Yumate who were working to defend their water supply. According to the complaints submitted to the authorities, the perpetuators were men associated with the mining industry.

Ecuador’s Alliance for Human Rights laments the failings of state institutions: These “knew of the risks faced by defenders and their requests for assistance, yet failed to take effective measures to meet their obligation to protect them”.

The people of the 72 villages in the Molleturo municipality want peace and to defend their rights. They do not want mining: neither illegal gold prospecting, which is seen as the background to the aggression, nor legal mining with the permission of the authorities.

We at Rainforest Rescue strongly condemn the violence. We stand in solidarity with the family of Alba Bermeo Puin and with all the people who are subjected to attacks and violence in Molleturo and other parts of the country because of their work to protect the environment.

With this petition, we are calling for international solidarity with environmentalists facing violence. Please take action by signing and sharing it. We will be delivering this petition to the Ecuadorian authorities in the very near future.

Back­ground

The communities of Río Blanco and Yumate in the municipality of Molleturo have been resisting mining in their area for more than 20 years.

In 2018, they won a protective lawsuit based on the violation of their right to free, prior and informed consultation. The mining company Ecuagoldmining SA/Junefield was then forced to partially suspend its operation.

An extraordinary action for protection in the Río Blanco case is currently underway before the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court, which, given the circumstances, must be heard urgently.

In addition to the Río Blanco mining project, there are around ten mining concessions for gold, silver and copper on almost 50,000 hectares of municipal land. Peatlands, wetlands and primary forests that supply water not only to surrounding communities, but also to three other provinces, are in danger.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. In the annual reports on murdered environmentalists by the NGO Global Witness, the mining sector ranks first worldwide.

Further information (in Spanish):

A radio show on the attacks in Molleturo recorded with community participation; the program highlights the armed attacks on the defenders in Molleturo since the beginning of October. The program was recorded before Alba Bermeo’s murder and warned of the dangerous situation.

Letter

To: the Ecuadorian National Assembly, public prosecutor, Constitutional Court and the governorship of Azuay Province

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are shocked and dismayed at the violence perpetrated against women in the municipal district of Molleturo by people associated with the mining industry, and at the murder of Alba Bermeo Punin on October 22.

This murder could have been prevented if Ecuadorian authorities had acted appropriately. We hold local and national authorities responsible and complicit in their actions and inactions.

The Alliance for Human Rights and other organizations charge that “despite the very serious events that took place on both October 1 and October 8, 2022, neither the governorship of the province of Azuay, nor the police, nor the public prosecutor's office, nor any other government entity has taken any action to protect the environmentalists in Molleturo or to stop illegal mining activities".

We join the Alliance in demanding that the authorities take action and that the prosecutor’s office conducts a thorough investigation of the events in order to identify, prosecutw and punish the culprits.

There is an urgent need to stop the violence and all mining activities in the region immediately. The aggression associated with mining and the lack of security pose a threat to the lives and safety of local people.

The National Assembly must take responsibility for the situation. As a signatory to the Escazú Accord, Ecuador pledged to guarantee the work and protect the lives of environmentalists – a commitment that was violated in Molleturo.

Communities impacted by mining and the violence it engenders want to rid their lives of mining activities, be they legal or illegal. According to the law, people have the right to prior consultation and the right to say NO to mining.

Yours faithfully,

This petition is also available in the following languages:

54,623 supporters

Help us reach 100,000:

Recent activity

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Stay in the loop on rainforest conservation issues with our free newsletter!