QUITO – The prefect of Ecuador’s Azuay province, Yaku Perez, filed on Tuesday a request with the Constitutional Court calling for a referendum on banning mining for metals within his jurisdiction.
Perez and several mayors from Azuay participated in a march to the Constitutional Court, where they presented the request for the referendum.
In September 2019, the Constitutional Court denied another referendum request, citing “errors of form.”
Perez said he was convinced that “sooner or later” there would be a referendum on mining in the southern Ecuadorian province.
The referendum questions “are not generic, they have a purpose, neutrality, constitutionality,” Perez said in a press conference.
The provincial official said the Constitutional Court would not have any “pretext” now to deny the request.
The new proposed referendum would have two questions – the original one calling for a ban on the mining of metals of all kinds near the province’s water sources and an additional question asking whether mining rights granted prior to the referendum should eventually expire.
“Many of these concessions were made during an administration that was much more corrupt and one of the most extraction-oriented in the history of the Republic of Ecuador,” Perez said.
The provincial official said that “as a result, you have to apply what the constitution prescribes – the right of repetition. If the multinationals want to sue the state, perfect, sue, but there is the right of repetition, under which former President (Rafael) Correa will have to be first in line.”
Perez said the administration of Correa, a democratic socialist who was in office from 2007 to 2017, engaged “in a clear irregularity,” granting “mining (concessions) in the territories of indigenous peoples,” without apparently consulting residents prior to awarding mining rights.
Prosecutors have accused Correa, who leads the opposition to President Lenin Moreno’s administration from exile in Belgium, of corruption while in office.
“Ecuador, sooner or later, will be declared a territory free of metallic mining,” Perez said.
A total of 815 mining concessions have been granted in Azuay and Perez said this meant that “one-quarter of the territory” is committed to mining for metals.
The Ecuadorian government expects $3.8 billion in investment in the mining industry, which is projected to account for 4 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2021.
The Constitutional Court has 30 days to respond to the request submitted by Perez, who said he was optimistic about the way things would turn out and hoped the referendum would be held before the 2021 presidential election.
The provincial official said that if the request was once again denied, he would organize a national referendum on mining.
Metallic mining, according to the Mining Ministry, is an extractive activity designed to obtain metals ranging from basic (copper, lead, zinc), to ferrous (iron, cobalt, titanium) and precious (gold, silver, platinum), as well as radioactive (plutonium, uranium, radium).