The Undersecretary of Environmental Quality in Mining of Ecuador, Carlos Velasco, said Thursday that the country is immersed in a "mining boom" and that the Executive is fighting to stop illegal activity and protect the environment.
"We are in a mining boom, that is a reality that is in the country, which is latent and as the Ministry of the Environment we will always guard the rights of nature," the senior environmental official said in an interview with Efe.
His statements come at a time when security forces coordinate an operation against illegal mining in the Andean north of the country, where nearly 1,200 people have been evicted from what is considered the largest gold mine in Latin America.
At the end of 2017 the existence of this gold deposit was spread in the La Merced parish of Buenos Aires, in the province of Imbabura (north), and miners from all over the country flocked, doubling and even tripling a local population dedicated to the sector agricultural and livestock.
The case of Imbabura is one of the most eloquent of the last year, although similar ones abound throughout the country, and has led to the declaration of the state of emergency in the region in order to allow the continuation of the operation and that the evicted not return to exploitation.
Velasco said that what happened in that mine "is a social problem that must also be seen from the environmental point of view," and said that his ministry intervenes in the processes of environmental regularization of the activity as well as in the control processes.
"Today we are not in time to say if we want mining or not, we are already with mining in the country and we must face it in the best way and join efforts of all ministries so that these social problems do not deepen," he said.
A few years ago, Ecuador defined illegal activity as a crime that ignores the State's resources and since then it has taken measures to prevent it, with periodic operations by security agencies.
Ecuador tries to promote mining as a driver of national development and expects its contribution to GDP to jump from 1.25 percent in 2017 to more than 4 percent in 2021. In 2018, its contribution was 1.6.
Mining products accounted for more than 50 percent of investments in 2018, which was 742 million, according to the Ministry of Finance.
The senior Environment official insisted that what is important is that mining and oil projects be regularized and transparent.
"When you put it in the State arena, you can charge taxes to the company, ask for royalties, make contracts that are beneficial for the country, a way to combine responsible mining is to formalize," he said.
A second fundamental aspect to combat this underground activity of the legal framework is for companies to comply with Ecuadorian environmental laws and "go a step further and be socially just projects, technically friendly with the environment and protect especially the populations that are in the area of influence ".
On the other hand, he announced that his Portfolio has embarked on the development of an Environmental Mining Map, where the mining projects are recorded and evidence of compliance with legislation that prevents activity in the national system of protected areas and urban centers .
"It is in preparation at this moment and as our policy has always been, we will make this map transparent so that the citizens, the organizations, know it and see which will be the places where the Mining Ministry can give its mining concessions," he said.
. (tagsToTranslate) Ecuador (t) recognizes (t) promises (t) to protect (t) environment