Mist-shrouded mountain rainforest in the Intag region of northern Ecuador Mountain rainforest in the Intag region of northern Ecuador (© Klaus Schenck) Brown-headed spider monkey holding on to a branch The mountain rainforest in northern Ecuador is home to the critically endangered brown-headed spider monkey (© Istockphoto/GummiBone) Los Cedros mountain rainforest, Ecuador The Los Cedros mountain rainforest, Ecuador (© Istockphoto/Kalistratova) Open-pit mine in the rainforest of Ecuador Copper mine in the rainforest, Ecuador (© CASCOMI) Our land – nuestra tierra! Human chain with banner against land grabbing in Ecuador Our land – nuestra tierra! Protest against land grabbing in Ecuador (© Stiftung Amazonica)

Enforcing the rights of nature in court

Mining companies have the copper and gold deposits beneath the rainforests of the Ecuadorian Andes in their sights. Our partner organization OMASNE is leading the grass-roots resistance against mining – and recently won a spectacular verdict for the rights of nature.

Project Overview

Project FocusEcosystems

Project Objective protecting tropical mountain rainforests from destruction by planned mining operations

Activities raising awareness, networking and lobbying, environmental education, podcasting

The mist-shrouded mountain rainforests of Ecuador’s Andes are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth. Critically endangered brown-headed spider monkeys and spectacled bears live among lianas, ferns and orchids. The 6,000-hectare Los Cedros Biological Reserve is home to 315 species of birds, five species of cats, three species of monkeys and more than 400 species of orchids.

All would be well if it weren't for the gold and copper deposits beneath this riot of biodiversity. International mining companies, together with the Ecuadorian state, have repeatedly sought to exploit them. If they have their way, large stretches of mountain rainforest would be cleared to make way for vast open-pit mines. Toxic mine wastewater would pollute the rivers.

United against mining

The local people are resolutely – and so far, successfully – resisting mining. Many have joined forces in the Observatorio Minero Ambiental y Social del Norte del Ecuador (OMASNE) initiative. The organization investigates and documents mining projects, holds workshops, meetings and protests in affected communities, conducts public relations work and environmental education, and takes legal action against mining projects. OMASNE also operates a small research station in the Los Cedros mountain rainforest.

Rainforest Rescue has long supported OMASNE, both financially and with networking and campaigning. Together, we have been able to prevent mining projects, but our work is far from over. It takes a lot of personal dedication and money to enable travel to meetings, protests and court dates, and to pay lawyers, prepare information material and hold workshops. 

Protecting the rights of nature

In Ecuador, oil drilling and mining are destroying the environment and causing serious conflicts with local communities. Complaints against such projects are often dismissed or ignored by the authorities, even though the rights of nature are enshrined in Ecuador’s constitution.

It was therefore a huge success when the people of Los Cedros won a lawsuit against copper mining in local courts in a case that had dragged on for three years.

Finally, in December 2021, the Constitutional Court revoked all permits that had been issued for the mining project: “The Los Cedros ecosystem bears the right to the existence of animal and plant species and to the maintenance of their cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary process,” the court said in its ruling. Therefore, nothing may be done in the forest that would violate the rights of nature. In short: no mining.

Our OMASNE colleagues write: “Thank you for working with us in liberating Los Cedros from mining. This ruling sets a vital precedent at local, national and international levels. It’s a huge success!”

For the past 25 years, Rainforest Rescue has been supporting the people of Ecuador in their struggles against the oil and mining industries. With your donation, we can make a lasting contribution toward keeping the mountain rainforests safe, protecting the climate, and ensuring respect for human rights and the livelihoods of the forests’ traditional inhabitants.

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