Anyone with exposure to mining in Ecuador should be watching what’s going on in a courtroom in Azuay this week, with the main hearing yesterday and the verdict on the appeal due next Monday or Tuesday. The case is the government’s appeal on the suspension of the Rio Blanco gold mine project (Chinese capitals Junefield) and the issue is whether the company needs prior permission to build its mine. The company and the government says no, the locals say yes, the courts agreed with the locals a couple of months ago, now that ruling is being tested by the appeals court which will be a binding decision. According to the government at least, because the anti-mine locals aren’t about to give up their fight if the call goes against them as witnessed by their laywer who said (quote translated), “If the court rules in favour of the State, it’s a declaration of war“.
No joke. This appeal should never have happened and the new Vice Minister of mining, Henry Troya, is a world class dumbass for bringing the case to appeal. If the State loses, precedent is set against ALL mining companies and projects in Ecuador, if the State wins he incites outright rebellion in Azuay (which he should have known was going to happen). Not only that, but we’ve seen this exact same pattern roll out in other LatAm countries and the result is always the same; if you don’t engage locals and get them onside you’re not going to get anywhere, then it gets even worse when you resort to strong-arm legal or State forces strategies. Either Señor Troya is pig ignorant of his own sector, or he simply decided to do the one thing that would never work in order to have the chance to beat up some small brown people later. This new, gratuitously confrontational line is so stupid and self-defeating I’m even starting to miss the ex-Minister Javier Córdova. And that’s saying something.