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Ecuador and mining

Here’s an excerpt from last Sunday’s weekly.

Ecuador: President Correa makes strong pro-mining noises

On Saturday in his regular address to the nation, President Correa took time out to make some pretty strong pro-mining comments. Basing his comments around the recently completed census of mining in the country that identified some 9,750 people as full-time miners and 1,800 (mostly informal) small mining operations, Correa said that his government plans to quintuple the number of people directly employed in mining and made specific reference to five large-scale mining projects that, once developed, would employ a total of 30,000 people. Also, as usual when speaking in favour of mining he made it clear that mining at any cost would not be allowed in the country and the strictest standards of environmental protection would always apply. Here are two Correa quotes found in this report (11) on yesterday’s discourse and translated by your author:

“Yes to mining, yes to petroleum, but with environmental and social responsibility. Promoting a responsible and ethical mining industry, this is the key……all human activity transforms the world, but if it is done with environmental responsibility these changes can be reverted by 95%.”

“If a mining plan has too much environmental impact and little revenue (for the State) it will be rejected, but it’s absurd to oppose exploration when the new mining law sends 60% of tax revenues collected from mining to communities around the projects.”

There’s nothing particularly new in Correa’s words of this weekend, but they are the first explicit pro-mining sounds he’s made for some time and come at a moment when environmentalists have tried to up the volume of opposition to the extractive industries in Ecuador but haven’t, so far at least, enjoyed much popular success with the message. Correa, a person who follows opinion polls and public opinion very carefully, wouldn’t have suddenly decided to speak out in favour of mining without carefully checking for overall popularity of the message first and must be confident he enjoys the support of the majority (or at least doesn’t suffer outright rejection) on the subject of mining.

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