BUENOS AIRES, Ecuador (Reuters) – Ecuador’s market-friendly President Lenin Moreno is cracking down on illegal gold miners, who are increasingly encroaching on formal mines, but keeping them away from an Australian billionaire’s concession for good may prove a tall order.
Moreno last month sent 4,000 troops and police to clear thousands of miners from a gold and copper mining concession belonging to Hancock Prospecting, controlled by Gina Rinehart, Australia’s wealthiest person.
Now, with the area under a 60-day state of emergency and military and police guarding nearby Buenos Aires parish, authorities say illegal mining, also known as wildcatting, at the Imba-2 concession has stopped.
But the move, which followed a request by Rinehart’s company that its contract be suspended due to the unrest, now risks sparking a backlash with locals.
For dwellers of the hardscrabble agricultural community, the “plastic city” of tents and makeshift restaurants near the mines brought a jolt of economic activity to the remote, mountainous area. Some wildcat miners pledge to return once the emergency measures end.