Mirador Mining Project Puts Rights of Nature Laws to the Test in Ecuador

February 28, 2013 | By Dina Buck

Above: President Correa at the contract signing for the Mirador mining project

The Condor Highland in the southeastern section of the Ecuadorian Amazon is rich in biodiversity, and home to Shuar indigenous communities.  The Condor Highland is also, like other areas of the Amazon, a target for resource extraction.

This time it's minerals – copper, gold, and silver – that threaten to destroy the area and, for those who wish to save it, time is running short.  Ecuador's government has already granted China's EcuaCorriente permission to do open-pit mining in the region. The mine is called Mirador One because it is the first of six open-pit mines proposed.

The Severe Impacts of Open-Pit Mining

The mines would affect a 25,000 acre area, including more than 6,000 acres of protected forest.  An Environmental Impact Assessment found several species of amphibians and reptiles endemic to the Condor Highland that will be at risk of extinction if the mines move forward.  The assessment found other vulnerable species in the area that will also be at risk, as well as the incredibly diverse flora the area habors.

Likewise, waterways and aquifers will be at risk of severe contamination. Open-pit mines are deeply polluting, and can continue to pollute for decades, and sometimes centuries, after they are created.  The mines will also require enormous amounts of chemicals, water, and electricity.

Standing Up for Rights of Nature

NGOs, Human Rights Organizations, and Ecuadorian lawyers, including Mario Melo of Fundación Pachamama (FP), have brought a suit against Ecuador's government for violating Articles 71-73 of its own constitution.  These Articles specifically give rights to nature.  Article 73, for example, states: The State shall apply preventive and restrictive measures on activities that might lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of ecosystems and the permanent alteration of natural cycles.

On February 22, a court hearing was held.  As Fundación Pachamama noted in a January post, What 2013 Could Hold for Ecuador's Amazon and Indigenous Peoples, "A verdict upholding Rights of Nature in this case would add significant weight to legal arguments used by indigenous peoples and their advocates in other cases resisting extractive industry in their territories."

What you can do:

  • Please share this news far and wide with your networks.
  • Please send statements of support and sign this petition on the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature's website asking the judge to recognize and protect the Rights of Nature.
  • If you are a lawyer please send an Condor Highland Amicus Curiae (friend of the court - this is a .pdf download) formal opinion on why the Rights of Nature should be protected in this case.  Deadline is Thursday the 28th of February in the afternoon.  Apologies for the short notice. Use this form here.

Please send the amicus curiae to: Nati Greene (ngreene@pachamama.org.ec) in Ecuador who will translate it into Spanish and send it to the court on your behalf. Additional information to send to Nati include: color photocopy of your passport, and an electronic signature as an image, preferably on the letterhead of your organization with a logo and address.