Police and Military Attack Community Resisting Mining in Ecuador

Cover image: Residents of Palo Quemado who for years have resisted the La Plata mining project.

On Tuesday, March 26, elements of the National Police of Ecuador and the Armed Forces violently entered the community of Palo Quemado, in the province of Cotopaxi, in the central sierra region of Ecuador. There, residents have maintained resistance against the La Plata mining project owned by the Canadian company, Atico Mining, which seeks to extract gold, copper, silver, and zinc.

Members of the community shared images denouncing the entry of the military into the region. The military arrived just one day after a judge ordered a provisional suspension of the environmental consultation in the parish of Palo Quemado.

Ecuadorian military violently enters a community resisting mining.

According to residents, the process is taking place within a context of militarization and violence, with the consent of the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Ecological Transition, in order to push forward with the process of permitting for mining extraction.

With this, the mayor of Sigchos, solicited the removal of the security forces due to their presence causing conflict with campesinos who reject mining extraction in their territories.

With the entrance of the security forces this morning, the National Antimining Front denounced this new attack by the military against campesinos in the community of Palo Quemado.

Repression carried out by the police and military who shot tear gas canisters and injured campesinos who tried to repel the violent invasion by security forces.

“The military and police have received orders to attack the people of Palo Quemado and Las Pampas in retaliation for the suspension of the environmental consultation. The fields are filled with smoke and blood, and the organized people rescue the wounded campesinos,” they denounce.

Resounding Rejection

The community of Palo Quemado barely exceeds 1,000 residents and the majority have taken a stand against the La Plata mining project which would also affect the neighboring communities of Las Pampas and Alluriquín; the latter belonging to the province of Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas.

The area of the concession for the La Plata project is 2,222 hectares and according to the Canadian company Atico Mining, the area destined for extraction includes 143 hectares belonging to the community of Palo Quemado. There, residents will decide whether to approve or reject the mining project via an environmental consultation.

With an elevated police and military presence, an informative assembly was carried out on March 20 in Palo Quemado.

According to the company, they have invested more than 16 million dollars for the preparation of the mining extraction. They foresee that, for the polymetallic mining development necessary in the region, they will need 100 million dollars.

It is important to mention that at the beginning of March, the President of Ecuador, Daniel Noboa, headed a series of strategic meetings during the World’s Premier Mineral Exploration and Mining Convention (PDAC 2024), in collaboration with the Bank of Montreal (BMO), where investments of up to 4.8 million dollars were promised for mining projects in Ecuador.

The investment commitments were made through featured projects in the mining industry, among them is the La Plata mining project of Atico Mining.

The Ecuador Minister of Energy and Mines, Andres Arroba, in Toronto, Canada.

For their part, on Monday, March 25, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), the National Antimining Front, and the Indigenous and Campesino Movement of Cotopaxi, through a communique, celebrated the judicial ruling which suspends the environmental consultation and, therefore, the legal permitting process for the mining operation.  

However, the organizations warned to not let down the guard, and maintain the resistance in light of the violent attack on Tuesday, March 26.

Next Tuesday, April 2, a court hearing will be held to define the suspension of the environmental consultation which is now keeping the mining extraction on hold.

Mobilizations

After the violent attack, numerous organizations and communities in Ecuador have shown their support with the antimining resistance in the province of Cotopaxi, announcing that they will join the national mobilizations planned for Wednesday, March 27.

Among the demonstrations announced, CONAEI and the Antimining Front will set up an encampment in the capital city of Ecuador, Quito, starting this afternoon to take a stand against mining exploration in Palo Quemado and Las Pampas.

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