LOS CEDROS, Ecuador (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Ecuador is facing a lawsuit this week for giving mining companies exploration rights to a protected forest in one of the country’s most biodiverse regions without local consultation.
Brought by the local Cotacachi government, the lawsuit requests the regional court place an injunction on all mining activity within Los Cedros in the Intag Valley, a lush area of rivers and Andean tropical forest.
The lawsuit, a draft of which was seen by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, says the national government violated the constitution and forestry laws by ignoring Los Cedros’ conservation status and concessioning the protected forest without informing local officials.
“The government turned over 70 percent of the Intag Valley into mining concessions, yet they didn’t do a single consultation — not with the communities, not with the local authorities,” said Jose Cueva, planning director at the Cotacachi government. In recent decades, the Intag Valley has seen some of the fiercest resistance against mining in Ecuador, a country rich in gold, copper and other minerals.
Since 2008 an estimated 1.8 million acres of Ecuador’s protected forests have been made available for mining exploration, according to the Rainforest Information Centre, an environmental non-profit based in Australia.