Our home, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, has been sold to gold miners by the Ecuadorian government without our consent. In the Western Amazon, at the foothills of the Andes, the State has divided the headwaters of our main river into 52 gold mining concessions covering more than 30,000 hectares. These concessions threaten our territory, the health of our people and that of thousands who live downstream, and expose this biodiversity hotspot to uncontrolled deforestation and contamination, accelerating the global climate crisis.

We are the Kofan people. Our rivers are our life. We fish in these rivers and our children bathe in them. The future of our families depends on having access to clean water and an intact rainforest. That's why we ask for your support.

Since January 2018, our community of Sinangoe has detected large diggers and water pumps on the banks of the Aguarico River, the main artery of our ancestral land and our main source of water and food. The Aguarico headwaters feed a part of the Amazon recognized by the Field Museum of Chicago as the most biodiverse place in Ecuador, where more than 3,725 species of plants, 650 species of birds and 50 species of mammals were detected during several inventories that also turned up new species and a high level of endemism. Allowing mining operations in this ecological gem would lead to profound and irreversible environmental and cultural damage.

Recognizing the great value of this area, for months our community led a territorial monitoring program and denounced the concessions to pressure the Ecuadorian government to mandate the cessation of operations, guarantee our rights and protect this precious place for the planet; but they did nothing. Due to the State’s inaction, we decided to take our case to the court, denouncing several Ecuadorian Ministries. On July 27th, 2018, a provincial judge recognized that our right to free, prior and informed consent was violated, and prohibited all mining concessions in the headwaters of the Aguarico River. This is a great victory for our community, for the Amazon rainforest and the climate.

However, all the Ministries involved in the case appealed the sentence, and again we will have to go to court to request the protection of our territory, rights, water and lives. That's why we are asking for your organization’s support.

We need the Judge to listen to our voice and that of organizations and people concerned about protecting a megadiverse territory: home to thousands of species, the birthplace of an important water basin and our ancestral home. Our struggle is for the right to prior consent, to water, to health, and the defense of the Amazon.

Please support us by adding your organization’s name to the letter below, it will be sent to the Ecuadorian authorities in the coming weeks. #JusticeSinangoe.

(This letter will be sent in Spanish to the Ecuadorian authorities)

Letter from concerned organizations in support of the Kofan community of Sinangoe in the defense of their rights and the protection of the Aguarico headwaters, Ecuadorian Amazon

To the attention of:
President of the Republic of Ecuador
Judiciary Council
Minister of the Environment
Minister of Mines
ARCOM
SENAGUA


The headwaters of the Aguarico River, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, the ancestral land of the Kofan people of Sinangoe and the location of Cayambe-Coca National Park, are recognized as the most biodiverse region in Ecuador. Biological studies and inventories in this area have evaluated the diversity of plants to 3,725 species, a mega-diverse environment with a high rate of endemism containing more than 650 species of birds, 50 species of mammals and more than 100 species of reptiles and amphibians [1] [2] [3]. This unique natural wealth also contains a large amount of carbon – with an average of more than 120 tons per hectare [1] – which would contribute significantly to the climate crisis if the rainforest was degraded or destroyed…

(This letter will be sent in Spanish to the Ecuadorian authorities)

Letter from concerned organizations in support of the Kofan community of Sinangoe in the defense of their rights and the protection of the Aguarico headwaters, Ecuadorian Amazon

To the attention of:
President of the Republic of Ecuador
Judiciary Council
Minister of the Environment
Minister of Mines
ARCOM
SENAGUA


The headwaters of the Aguarico River, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, the ancestral land of the Kofan people of Sinangoe and the location of Cayambe-Coca National Park, are recognized as the most biodiverse region in Ecuador. Biological studies and inventories in this area have evaluated the diversity of plants to 3,725 species, a mega-diverse environment with a high rate of endemism containing more than 650 species of birds, 50 species of mammals and more than 100 species of reptiles and amphibians [1] [2] [3]. This unique natural wealth also contains a large amount of carbon – with an average of more than 120 tons per hectare [1] – which would contribute significantly to the climate crisis if the rainforest was degraded or destroyed…

In addition to the ecological importance of the area, the headwaters of the Aguarico are also home to the Kofan community of Sinangoe, which has a unique and deep connection to the land and rivers, especially the Aguarico, the major artery of its ancestral territory and its main source of water and food. For its subsistence, the community of Sinangoe is dedicated to fishing, hunting and small-scale farming. As part of their right to self-determination recognized by the Ecuadorian Constitution and as a mechanism of territorial control, the community of Sinangoe has drawn up a law of their own regarding the use of their lands and has strengthened their ancestral system of territorial defense.

Beginning in 2017, and with greater intensity as of January 2018, the community detected, through its monitoring work, many miners, water pumps and large excavators on the riverbank and within the Aguarico River. New mining concessions, granted by the State without free, prior and informed consent, cover an area of ​​at least 30,000 hectares, fragmented into 52 concessions [4]. Sinangoe filed many complaints with the authorities, indicating that activities they were not consulted about were causing serious damage to the territory and threatening their health from contamination. The community requested immediate response and sanctions from the government, but miners kept on destroying the banks of the Aguarico.

In the absence of a timely response from the authorities, Sinangoe took the case to court, denouncing several Ecuadorian Ministries. On July 27th, 2018, the Judge of the Multicompetent Judicial Unit of Gonzalo-Pizarro (Sucumbíos) recognized that Sinangoe’s right to free, prior and informed consent had been violated, and prohibited all mining concessions in the headwaters of the Aguarico River.

The collective rights established in the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador in its article 57, numeral 7, recognize the right to free, prior and informed consent, within a reasonable timeframe. In the case of mining activities, the obligation to consult was established by the Constitutional Court and included in the Mining Law in 2010. In addition, according to Article 6 of ILO Convention 169, prior consultation is mandatory when carrying out a project or intervention that directly affects an indigenous or tribal people.

The presence of mining in the headwaters of the Aguarico River represents a threat to the health of the people of Sinangoe and thousands of people who live downstream, exposes this highly diverse primary forest to uncontrolled deforestation and accelerates the global climate crisis.

Our organization considers the headwaters of the Aguarico River of great importance that should be a national priority for conservation and that this area should be protected immediately. Finally, we believe that any mining exploration or exploitation project in the area should begin with a free and informed consultation process that guarantees and respects the corresponding international standards and the consent of the community of Sinangoe.

Our organization supports Sinangoe’s struggle, congratulates the decision of the judge, and asks the Ecuadorian State to guarantee and respect the rights of the Kofan people and to protect their lives and culture, which are so closely linked to their megadiverse territory.

We thank you for your attention.

  1. Ministry of the Environment of Ecuador. 2015. Natural heritage statistics: Data on forests, ecosystems, species, carbon and deforestation of continental Ecuador. http://suia.ambiente.gob.ec/documents/10179/346525/ESTADISTICAS+DE+PATRIMONIO+FINAL.pdf/b36fa0a7-0a63-4484-ab3e-e5c3732c284b
  2. Pitman, N., D.K. Moskovits, W. S. Alverson, and / and R. Borman A. (eds.). 2002. Ecuador: Serranías Cofán-Bermejo, Sinangoe. Rapid Biological Inventories Report 3. Chicago, Illinois: The Field Museum.
  3. MAE. Management plan for the Cayambe-Coca ecological reserve. 2009. Quito
  4. ARCOM. 2018. Ecuador’s mining cadastre. http://geo.controlminero.gob.ec:1026/geo_visor/

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