Ecuador has tethered its economic fortunes to a burgeoning mining industry. Now it just needs to get bureaucrats and community leaders on board.
Local opposition and red tape are hindering plans to become a mining superpower that can rival other South American nations. Less than two years ago the government hoped mining would become 4 percent of Ecuador’s gross domestic product by the end of President Lenin Moreno’s term in 2021. That’s now under question, according to Deputy Mining Minister Fernando Benalcazar.
“That 4 percent is aggressive, given the conditions of radical social and environmental opposition that we have been seeing,” Benalcazar said in an interview in Quito. “Mining belongs to all 17 million Ecuadorians and large projects can’t be decided by groups of people that don’t represent even one per thousand of the country.”
Ecuador still expects that mining exports will rise to $3.66 billion in 2021 from $270 million in 2018 as the country’s first two large-scale mines start operating later this year, he said.
But mirroring the growth stories of neighbors Chile and Peru, the world’s two largest copper producers, is proving hard as multiple projects face delays. International investors, some of whom have set up shop in Ecuador over the last two years, have complained publicly that they face difficulties.
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