Ecuador declared illegal mining a threat to state security

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It was a resolution of the State Public Safety Council. A presidential decree will determine the actions to combat it

Ecuador declared illegal mining a threat to state security

By

Yalilé LoaizaFrom Quito

Ecuador declared illegal mining a threat to state security

On Thursday, January 26, 2023, the government of President Guillermo Lasso declared illegal mining a threat to state security . (Ecuadorian National Police/AP/File)

Ecuador declared illegal mining a threat to the overall security of the State. The Consejo de Seguridad Pública del Estado reached this resolution, which also assured that it supported legal mining.

The Secretary of Security of Ecuador, Diego Ordóñez, indicated that President Guillermo Lasso will sign an executive decree with the actions that the security forces and other institutions will implement to combat this threat.

As Ordóñez explained to the local press, both the National Police and the Armed Forces “have the obligation to secure the territory to guarantee peace and legally approved activities.” The declaration on illegal mining seeks to support mining concessions that operate legally.

In his statements, the Ecuadorian Secretary of Security also said that there are “characters with a political agenda that seek to affect the possibility that these productive activities contribute to the development of the country.” For Ordóñez, “it is essential to understand that there are statements by a leader of social movements indicating that they will prevent the Armed Forces and the National Police from carrying out protection activities in these areas,” he said.

Ecuador declared Illegal mining as a threat to state security

The Ecuadorian government announced that it will support legal mining and combat illegal mining activities. (REUTERS/Daniel Tapia)

This was the government's response to what was discussed in a national assembly of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), where the members sought to develop response strategies in the presence of the public force in their territories , regarding the operation of legal mining projects.

Among the actions resolved by the Conaie is the activation of indigenous and community guards “to defend the patrimony of Ecuadorians threatened by mining capitalism and transnationals.”

Faced with this, Ordóñez said that the “State is one and must be protected entirely by the Armed Forces, and there is no possibility that private guards, called indigenous or community guards, try to replace the role of the public force, which by definition has the legitimate use of force.” .

In December 2021, the General Secretariat of the Andean Community of Nations(CAN) and the Colombian Space Agency presented the Andean Environmental Diagnosis study which, among its conclusions, indicated that one of the main environmental problems affecting Ecuador is illegal mining.

A heritage house collapsed in Zaruma because its structure was affected by the illegal mining tunnels that cross the city.

The study carried out a state of the region's situation, in reference to the production and sources of information, indicators, public policies, specialized studies and development programs, according to what the CAN indicated in an official bulletin. In addition, the document suggests guidelines for the CAN countries to adopt joint actions that lead to compliance with the sustainable development goals, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Paris Agreement, the Convention on Diversity Biological and other international treaties.

Pilar Zamora, director of the Colombian Space Agency, which collaborated with the report, explained that: “Ecuador has great challenges in the face of environmental democracy, which is why in our recommendations we indicate that the country must have spaces for real and effective representation for its inhabitants, since problems and popular initiatives around extractive projects have been presented. It has a problem that is illegal mining and this is a problem that is replicated in the region.”

Illegal mining in Ecuador has affected different populations. The most visible consequences have occurred in Zaruma, a city declared as an Ecuadorian State Heritage Site in 1990 for its buildings of great architectural value. The small city, which is inhabited by 24,000 inhabitants and is located 108 kilometers from Machala, the provincial capital, is now sinking because there are tunnels under the city that were dug for illegal mining activities.

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