A court in Ecuador has ratified the decision to halt the Rio Blanco mine in Cuenca, rejecting an appeal from the government to continue a mining project it calls "strategic" and instead protecting the watersheds vital for the surrounding communities.
The Provincial Court on Civil and Commercial Issues of Azuay denied the appeal filed by Ecuador's mining and environmental ministries, and recognized that the people of Molleturo had not been properly consulted.
On June 2, Judge Paul Serrano had revoked the mining license for the Rio Blanco project, operated by Chinese firm Ecuagoldmining.
The government appealed, claiming the people of Molleturo and other affected areas had no right to a previous consult, because they weren't part of an Indigenous group.
Ecuagoldmining and the government then launched a campaign instructing the public not to allow themselves to "get fooled," and claiming the communities were actually defending the mining project.
"Mining and oil exploitation are fundamental for the country's economy," said Environment Minister Tarsicio Granizo. "They should be carried out technically and scientifically and environmental rules should be respected."
"According to law and justifce the decision in the Rio Blanco case has been ratified. Thanks water defenders, thanks for fighting with us and our children! #WaterWon #CajasFreeofMining"
Grazino said the mine had complied with every government requirement for its operation.
The Rio Blanco mine has proved highly controversial at a national level. It's located in the buffer zone of the El Cajas National Park and nearby residents claim it would pollute the watersheds and lagoons.
The mine is labeled "one of five strategic mining projects of Ecuador" by the Mining Ministry and was already in its exploitation phase. It has proven reserves of 2.1 million tones of mineralized rocks, out of which the company expects to extract 605,011 gold ounces and 4.3 million silver ounces over 11 years.
The appeals court also ruled that the community needed no further consultation because the national referendum of February 4, 2018, culminated with a ban on mining activity in protected areas, cities and intangible zones.