Mega-Mines or Biodiversity? NGOs challenge Ecuador’s conflicted goals

In a letter responding to a recent DW article about the economic potential of Ecuador’s rich biodiversity, Ecuadorean NGOs challenge the country’s continued commitment to large-scale mining that could “wipe out a good part of the existing biodiversity, and transform biodiverse jewels into open-pit nightmares”, against the will of indigenous peoples and local communities.


Richard Walker

Editor in Chief, English Edition

Deutsche Welle



Dear Mr. Walker,

With great surprise we read the interview of the Minister of Environment of Ecuador, Mr. Tarcisio Granizo, published by Deutsche Welle, on May 16, entitled Ecuador has great plans to build its economy based on biology.

In order to present your readers with another perspective on what Mr. Granizo said in the interview about Ecuador’s commitment to protect biodiversity and transform the economy to one based on the sustainable use of renewable resources, we would like to contrast that information with the incredible aggressiveness with which the Ecuadorian government currently promotes and supports large-scale mining.

To begin, we call your attention to the fact that the country has created, in the last few years, dozens of economic and other incentives1 to attract, not biocomerce companies, but transnational mining companies.

Currently there are almost two million hectares of mining concessions in the hands of transnational mining companies, and / or in the process of being granted. Of this figure, hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests, páramos and other fragile habitats are found within 42 private and public protected forests (Bosques Protectores). These are areas designated to protect bio-diversity and water resources and where, until recently, agriculture and ranching were banned.

On the other hand, most of the concession areas are located within the Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot, the most biologically important of all the world’s Hotspots. These natural areas not only protect hundreds of species of animals and plants that are threatened by extinction, but also protect the water sources of hundreds of communities.

A similar situation occurs with respect to indigenous lands in places such as the biodiverse Cordillera del Cóndor, located in the Amazon region; as well as several other indigenous territories in the country. All these areas have been – and continue to be – granted to companies without the slightest prior consultation, in flagrant violation of the Constitution of Ecuador.

Meanwhile, last week it was reported that police and workers of the company violently repressed demonstrators protesting against the Rio Blanco gold mine in the páramos of the province of Azuay. Several protesters have been imprisoned and are being prosecuted for defending their water and the future of their communities. And although mining has been temporarily halted at this site, we have long observed a persistent unwillingness on the part of the judicial system and regulators – such as the Ministry of the Environment – to impose the law impartially.

In Río Blanco, as well as in the rest of the country’s mining projects, the lack of prior consultation with the communities carried out in good faith about the possible impacts of mining goes a long ways to explain the genesis of these conflicts.

It is worth highlighting the massive use of security forces and the criminalization of the protest to impose mining projects on a large scale -as was the case of the Llurimagua copper project in the north of the country, in charge of the Chilean Codelco in 2014 , and now in Río Blanco with the Chinese company Junefield. In these biodiverse sites the state protects the mining companies and not the people, or biodiversity.

We fear the repression and state-sponsored criminalization to sustain extractivism is normalizing in the country and generating serious violations of human and collective rights. This situation has been documented by national and international human rights organizations for more than a decade.

To conclude, the undersigned below sincerely hope that Mr. Granizo can carry out his plan to take Ecuador to a Bioeconomy. But unless the extractive policies of the country change drastically, and change – not in the medium or long term, but in the short term, we see it as impossible. Otherwise, mining will wipe out a good part of the existing biodiversity, and transform these biodiverse jewels into open-pit nightmares, denying the possibility the country can use them to shore up its Bioeconomy.




CEDHU (Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos)

CAOI (Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indígenas)

ECUARUNARI (Confederación Kichwa del Ecuador)


DECOIN (Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag)



OMASNE (Observatorio Minero Ambiental y Social del Norte del Ecuador)

FIAN/ECUADOR (Observatorio del Derecho a la Alimentación y a la Nutrición)



ALDHEA (Alternativas al Desarrollo Extractivista y Antropocéntrico)


REDCONE (Red Coordinadora de Organizaciones Sociales del Norte de Esmeraldas)

ACUSMIT (Área de Conservación y Uso Sustentable Municipal Intag-Toisan)

CASA Interamericana (Centro para las Artes, el Sustento, y la Acción)



MUNICIPIO DE COTACACHI (Provincia de Imbabura)


Pablo Duque

Tarquino Cajamarca

Pocho Álvarez

William Sacher

Fernanda Soliz Torres

Carlos Zorrilla



For more information, please contact us at

Luisana Aguilar


Caminantes Collective




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