Blog Entry

Overwhelming “No” Vote in Southern Ecuador Referendum Targets INV Metals Project

On March 24th, the peoples of the southern Ecuador canton of Girón voted overwhelmingly in favour of water and life, and against metal mining in their territories. Canadian company INV Metals (majority shareholder IAMGOLD) and the Ecuadorian government are being sent a strong message, “No to mining, Yes to life”.  MiningWatch Canada has been reporting on the threats the company has been making against water defenders campaiging to have their voices heard.

Now, the votes are in and the “No” vote to the question “Are you in favour that metal mining occur in the paramos hydrological system in Kimsakocha?” represents a fierce 87%.

MiningWatch Canada urges Canadian companies and the Ecuadorian government to respect the communities' right to decide what happens in their territory and cease their attempts to undermine and intervene in their processes.

We celebrate the continuous and valiant efforts of local water protectors to defend the sources of life, integral not only to them, but to many, many others across the country.

The following statement written by Cuenca-based group, Yasunidxs Guapóndelig, was translated by MiningWatch Canada.

Water Wins, Kimsakocha Wins, We All Win!

(Guapóndelig of Cuenca, March 29, 2019) On sunday March 24, Giron, a small canton of the Azuay province, intensely green and nestled in the western foothills of the Andes mountain range and identified by a cascade of water that rises in the legendary moors of Kimsakocha, made history.

As expected, in the first binding consultation on mining in Ecuador, Girón said NO to mining in the Kimsakocha hydrological system: 87% of the voters and voters of Girón said NO. The vote for water won in all the parishes, in all the precincts, in all the electoral boards, and among the followers of all the political parties of the canton.

Particularly significant was the victory of water defenders in San Gerardo, since, assuming that this parish was their stronghold, the executives and allies of the company INV Metals recognized the right to consultation on mining in Kimsakocha but only for San Gerardo. Despite the fact that in recent weeks the Canadian company co-opted dozens of peasants by temporarily hiring them, they also lost in San Gerardo: 54% of the parish electorate told the company, NO.

55% of the votes for water come from women, irrefutable evidence of the degree of awareness of women with respect to caring for life. When we say that women have been the protagonists of the defence of the highland watersheds (páramos) for almost 20 years, we are talking about what we have seen. The results of the Girón consultation confirm this. We recognize them and express our gratitude to their efforts.

With its response, Girón not only saves its water sources, it also saves the water of the Victoria del Portete, Tarqui, Cuenca, Santa Isabel, Pucará, in the province of Azuay, and of Pasaje and El Guabo, in the province of El Oro. The town of Girón has won the recognition of all the mentioned populations and of the territories threatened by mining in Ecuador, because it opened, wide open, a way out to the fence of the Ecuadorian government and the mining companies: the binding popular referendum.

Article 106 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador indicates that for the approval of a matter proposed for popular consultation, "an absolute majority of valid votes will be required" and that "the popular pronouncement will be of obligatory and immediate compliance". Well, once the National Electoral Council officially notifies the President of the Republic, Lenín Moreno Garcés, of the results of the popular consultation of Girón, we will demand that the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources, with Carlos Pérez at its head, immediately revoke the three mining concessions of the Canadian company INV Metals in the Kimsakocha hydrological system.

Kimsakocha is a hydrological system that brings together springs, rivers, rain and frequent fog, grasslands capable of condensing the fog, plants and soil capable of storing large quantities of water, wetlands, lagoons and underground water currents. It is a hydrological system known and protected ancestrally by the Indigenous and peasant communities of Victoria del Portete, Tarqui, Girón and San Fernando. In those heights the rivers Rircay and Girón are born which carry on to the Pacific Ocean, and rivers Tarqui and Yanuncay are born, that then lead to the Atlantic.

This is a peaceful and historic victory, perhaps readily comparable in importance to the victory of the Portete de Tarqui of 1829. It is a declaration of sovereignty and a lifelong commitment to water by Girón. This victory marks a before and an after in the history of the relationship between human beings and nature and direct democracy. So, in the face of new attempts to ignore the popular will by officials of the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources and INV Metals, it is a victory that we have to defend because, as women say wisely, water is our life.

– Yasunidxs Guapondelig

The original statement can be found here.