Before dawn Tuesday, troops escorted more than 1,000 police officers to seize a remote mountain at the center of a gold rush at illegal mines in Ecuador’s northern Andes.
As many as 10,000 people flooded the remote region known as Buenos Aires over the last two years, to illegally mine gold owned by an Australian exploration company.
The area became the scene of crimes including human trafficking, sexual exploitation, extortion, money laundering and murder, as well as severe environmental damage, Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said at a news conference in Quito.
The Buenos Aires area is part of a concession owned by Australia’s Hanrine. It lies just south of Cascabel, where Australia-based SolGold Plc is seeking to build a major copper, silver and gold mine.
“The magnitude of the occupation by people dedicated to illegal activities makes a much stronger intervention by the state necessary,” Romo said, while President Lenin Moreno declared a 60-day state of emergency in the Buenos Aires area, which limits the right of assembly.