Ecuadorian Indigenous People File Legal Action Over Rainforest Mining Project

Controversial project led to forced evictions and a state of emergency in 2016

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The Shuar Indigenous people of Ecuador's southeastern Amazon-Andean corridor took legal action against the government today in Quito over multiple violations of their collective rights related to the San Carlos Panantza mining project.

The evidence filed by attorneys from the Tiam Foundation on behalf of the Shuar Arutam documents multiple rights violations beginning with the original allotment of a 100,000-acre gold mining concession on their territory. The concession was granted to the Chinese company Explorcobres S.A. (EXSA) – a joint venture of Tongling and China Railway Construction Corporation – without proper consultation nor the consent of the communities. The project is currently frozen due to conflicts with communities.

Further violations stem from the illegal eviction of 35 families in the Shuar community of Nankints to make way for the mining project in 2016. The violent eviction injured dozens and led to the militarization of their territory along with a state of emergency in two Amazonian provinces. Today's legal action charges the Ecuadorian government with violating the Shaur people's freedom of speech, assembly, and movement during the administration of former president Rafael Correa.

"We have repeatedly voiced our opposition to the San Carlos mine," said Vicente Tasakim, President of the Shuar Arutam. "We were never consulted and we have not given our consent as is our right guaranteed in the constitution. We have protected our forests for millenia, and we know that mining will have devastating environmental and social impacts for us. It has already brought violence to our doorstep. We are calling on EXSA to abandon the project and the government to cancel the concession," stated Tasakim.

The Shuar Arutam indigenous peoples, who number an estimated 6,000, hold ancestral territory of remote rainforest, 90% of which is primary forest of high conservation value.

"Any way you look at it, this project is a disaster – for the communities, for the company, and for the government," said Carlos Mazabanda, Amazon Watch Field Coordinator. "It has been mired in controversy, and it will continue to be plagued by on-the-ground resistance, legal actions, and advocacy efforts for the fulfillment of the collective rights of the Shuar Arutam people. "Mining in a biodiversity hotspot in the Amazon, like the Cordillera del Condor, is against the wishes of indigenous peoples and is destructive to the rainforest, the planet, and the people."

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