Decades of Protecting Water and Opposing Mining in the Páramo de Kimsakocha

Decades of Protecting Water and Opposing Mining in the Páramo de Kimsakocha


The following timeline was developed in collaboration with Savia Roja, Yasunidos, Defend them All, Ashley McGuire (Trent University) and Teresa Velasquez, author of Pachamama Politics: Campesino Water Defenders and the Anti-Mining Movement in Andean Ecuador, and the Legal Action for Precautionary Measures for the Páramo de Kimsakocha.


The Loma Larga mining project is currently in its exploration phase, with plans to extract primarily gold and copper through tunnel mining in the Kimsakocha páramo in southern Ecuador. The goal is to extract 3,000 tons of metal-containing ore per day, which amounts to more than 14 million tons over the life of the project.


The páramo is considered a high-altitude wetland that plays an essential role in protecting biodiversity, sequestering carbon, and maintaining the water supply for tens of thousands of people living in and around the páramo and the nearby city of Cuenca.


Multiple Canadian mining companies have attempted to advance the Loma Larga project since the early 2000s. Since acquiring the project and assuming responsibility for the environmental permitting process in 2021, Toronto-based Dundee Precious Metals has tried to downplay the project’s significant risks. A recent expert review of Dundee’s plans for the proposed mine found that the project is essentially a “ticking time bomb” for arsenic contamination, with major risks posed by the 5.5 million tons of mine waste Dundee plans to leave permanently exposed on the páramo when the mine’s 12-year life is up.


The Loma Larga project is being permitted amidst a backdrop of conflict. Over the last few years, the Ecuadorian government has increasingly shown support for the mining sector and expressed determined interest in attracting Canadian investment to the country. But for over 20 years now, rural Indigenous communities and urban committees have maintained strong and consistent opposition to mining.  A 2021 referendum in the nearby city of Cuenca resulted in an 80% vote in favour of protecting water and the páramos from the threats posed by the Loma Larga project. 


Underground gold and copper mining project slated to extract some 3,000 tons of ore per day in the Kimsakocha páramo.


The area for the Loma Larga mining project is located in the highest part of the Amazon slope in the Ecuadorian Andes, very near to the watershed divide with the Pacific. Given its proximity to key water sources and recharge areas, the project has an extremely high potential to contaminate water used for human consumption and for agriculture throughout the region. The project also intersects, and would affect, areas that are key for biodiversity conservation, such as the Macizo de las Cajas Biosphere Reserve and the Kimsakocha National Recreation Area, as well as the Kimsakocha páramo or 3 Lagunas, which forms part of the Macizo del Cajas. Biosphere Reserve.


All of the urban centres and rural communities in the province of Azuay who find themselves downstream from the mining project.


Dundee Precious Metals (DPM), a Canadian mining company headquartered in Toronto, Canada


Advanced exploration. Suspended by provincial Court in August 2023.