(Bloomberg) — Ecuador’s fledgling mining industry faces another test on Sunday when voters in the third-largest city will decide whether to ban major projects within municipal limits.
Alongside the country’s presidential and legislative elections, residents of Cuenca in the southern Andes mountains will be asked if they want large-scale mining within the drainage basins of five rivers.
While there are no big mines operating in the area yet, the referendum threatens to derail more than 40 concessions seeking to tap gold, silver and copper reserves.
Ecuador became a burgeoning copper and gold hot spot, with prospectors and developers including BHP Group and Newcrest Mining Ltd. flooding into a country that’s looking to reduce its dependence on oil. But volatile policies and politics and often tense community relations have inhibited investments.
In a nationwide referendum three years ago, voters blocked mining in protected and urban areas.
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