In Ecuador, gov’t sees mining as the future. But communities are divided – by Michele Bertelli (Al – April 7, 2024)

Ecuador sees mining as a ‘crucial driver’ of the economy, providing jobs and incomes, but locals disagree.

Las Pampas, Ecuador – The alarm rang at 7am, summoning everyone in the main square. Protesters boarded three trucks, normally used to transport livestock. The convoy carried them close to the nearby town of Palo Quemado, home to the mining project of La Plata in northwestern Ecuador, 130km (81 miles) from the capital Quito.

Since last July, this quiet community has turned into an epicentre of anti-mining protests. Under the sight of military men stationed on the crest of the hill, roughly 100 demonstrators approached the road into town. But a whole riot squad blocked their way.

“We don’t want mining, and we will exert our right to resist every day,” 33-year-old farmer Rolando, who asked to use a pseudonym, told Al Jazeera. A resident of Las Pampas, there were stitches under his right eye. He says the police shot him right in the face with a canister of tear gas.

Since 1996, mining companies have been exploring the area around Palo Quemado, discovering deposits of gold, silver, copper and zinc. In 2020, Atico Mining, a Canadian firm, stepped in and started drilling for exploration after having obtained a concession from the Ecuadorian government until 2049.

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