Quito, Oct 31 (EFE).- The community of Sinangoe, of indigenous nationality A’i Cofán, protested on Tuesday in front of the Constitutional Court in Quito to demand compliance with an order to repair the damage caused by a canceled mining concession in their territory.
The protesters also called for the unconstitutionality of a decree that seeks to speed up the process of consultation with indigenous communities required for mega-projects such as oil and mining.
Wider Guaramag, president of the community located in the province of Sucumbíos, in the north of the country near the border with Colombia, said that the ruling, issued about five years ago, seeks a “comprehensive reparation of the affected area, where more than 16 hectares have been devastated by mining activities.”
The Court’s ruling also ordered the “removal of the 20 mining concessions” that are currently only suspended.
Guaramag said there are 250 people in his community and that many other communities on the banks of the Aguarico River could also be affected.
“As a nationality, we are tired of this violation of the law, of this mockery,” said Alexandra Narváez, an indigenous woman at the protest.
Jorge Acero, of Amazon Frontlines, said that the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Mines “have repeatedly refused to comply with a final judgment,” as the decision made by the Court of Sucumbíos in 2018 was ratified by the Constitutional Court in 2022. For this reason, a year ago his organization helped the community to file an enforcement action before the Constitutional Court for non-compliance.
The lawyer regretted that “in five years, the Ministry of the Environment has not moved a single stone, has not touched a single one of the ponds that exist because of the impact of mining activities.”
He also commented that the Ministry of Energy and Mines ” was forced to remove and cancel 52 concessions from the Ecuadorian Mining Registry, which would affect a total of more than 32,000 hectares of forest and virgin areas in the foothills.”
Ana Vera, of the Human Rights Alliance, added that “justice that takes a long time and is not implemented is not justice.”
“We are here,” she said, “to show that this is an emblematic case and to show how easy it is to destroy (because the community of Sinangoe has been destroyed by megamining) and how difficult it is to repair and restore, despite constitutional rulings.”
The indigenous protesters also asked the Court to give an “urgent and timely” response to their request for a declaration of unconstitutionality against Decree 754, which seeks to accelerate environmental consultations in indigenous territories where there are extractive projects.
These communities believe the decree violates their collective rights to prior consultation.
Ecuador is a signatory to the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention of 1989, also known as International Labor Organization Convention 169, which establishes that these communities have the right to be consulted on measures that directly affect them, such as extractive projects in their territories.
In September 2023, the A’i Cofán Nation, the Pastaza Waorani Organization, the Siekopai Nation, the Ceibo Alliance Foundation, the Surkuna, the Human Rights Support and Protection Center and Amazon Frontlines filed an unconstitutionality suit against “Decree 754”.
They argued that it “violates the rights to self-determination, consultation and free, prior and informed consent”. EFE