Ecuador’s Constitutional Court has ruled that communities have the right to vote on whether to allow large and medium-sized mining projects in their areas, the industry news site Mining.com reported. The legal decision will apply only to new projects, not those already licensed.
The decision follows a petition by the Ecuadorian city of Cuenca to allow a ballot referendum on mining near water sources, including near the Tomebamba, Machángara, Norcay, Yanuncay, and Tarqui rivers. Cuenca is located in the province of Azuay, which is home to extensive reserves of gold, silver, and copper and several major mining projects, including SolGold’s Sharug project, INV Metals’ Loma Larga mine, and the Rio Blanco mine, owned by a consortium of Chinese companies.
Experts say the new referendum could complicate President Lenín Moreno’s efforts to expand Ecuador’s mining industry, including his administration’s goal of attracting $3.7 billion in new investments over the next two years.
“It has been a dream for Cuencans for so many years to be allowed, through popular consultation, to determine the future protection of our water sources,” Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios told local media. Palacios said that participation in the referendum will be mandatory.