After three years of leading Ecuador's Mining Ministry, Jose Cordova resigned Tuesday after Indigenous and environmentalist groups demanded he step down during a demonstration last Thursday.
Three hundred representatives of four provinces affected by mining projects (Imbabura, Morona Santiago, Azuay and Zamora Chinchipe) marched in Quito, Ecuador's capital city, to demand respect for "an agreement following the president's (Lenin Moreno) declarations on Dec. 11, when he said there would be no more mining concessions and existing ones would be reviewed."
There are six ongoing mining projects linked to "grave violations of human and nature's rights, that range from water pollution to aggression, forced displacement and murder," a representative of environmentalist organizations said.
Activists also demanded Cordova's resignation because "mining concessions were granted." Throughout January, the government has reportedly given 70,000 new hectares in mining concessions, in spite of the president's promise to halt them, according to a representative of Catastro Minero, an environmental NGO.
Cordova didn't clarify the reasons for his resignation, which comes only five days before Ecuadoreans head to the polls to vote on a seven-question referendum, including one that would prohibit mining "in all its stages" in protected and intangible zones as well as urban centers.
The question has been criticized by communities and social organizations who claim it will not resolve the conflict and violence generated by large ongoing mining projects through dispossession and the forced displacement of Indigenous and campesino populations.
Furthermore, some of the question's detractors argue a referendum on whether to ban mining in protected and intangible zones and urban centers is unnecessary. They say the application of existing legislation that stipulates human rights violations as grounds for terminating mining concessions would be enough to ease mining-related conflict.