International Minerals Corporation (IMC) in Molleturo, Ecuador


The mining project Rio Blanco is one of the five so-called mining strategic projects located in the parishes of Molleturo and Chaucha. It consists of a highly fragile ecosystem, high wetlands or Paramos, in the transition zone of Cajas National Park and is an important source of water for agriculture and human consumption within the province as well as for populations living in the southern coast provinces. The project is contracted to the Canadian firm IMC since 1999. Previously, in the mid-1990s, the transnational mining company Rio Tinto had conducted early exploration works. In that time local inhabitants had already stated their opposition to mining activity despite experiencing internal divisions. IMC carried out further exploration works until 2006, the year in which it published its positive feasibility study. From 2006 until 2008 local opposition grew at the same time that a nationwide anti-miming movement was emerging. In 2008 the constitutional mining mandate was issued, that should have meant the revokation of IMCs contract as it overlaps with a protected forest as well as a buffer zone. This however did not happen as president Correa is strongly in favour of mining activities. Currently, the government is negotiating the terms of the contract with IMC amidst ongoing local protest.

Basic Data
NameInternational Minerals Corporation (IMC) in Molleturo, Ecuador
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Specific Commodities
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Rio Blanco project consists of four mining concessions (San Luis A2, Miguir, Canoas and Canoas I. The mining design is an underground mining operation.

Currently estimated proven and probable reserves of approximately 600,000 ounces of gold and 4.3 million ounces of silver (2.1 Mt grading 8.8 g/t gold and 62 g/t silver at a cut-off grade of 4.0 g/t gold). Projected average annual production at Rio Blanco is approximately 70,000 ounces of gold and 400,000 ounces of silver over a 7.5 year mine life.

Early in 2011, the Company received approval from the Ecuadorian government to recommence exploration activities. The Company is planning to initiate operating works around the first calendar quarter of 2014.
Project Area (in hectares)5799
Level of Investment (in USD)120000000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date2004
Company Names or State EnterprisesSan Luis Minerals S.A./Internacional Minerals Corporation (IMC) from Canada
Relevant government actorsEcuadorian government, Parish of Molleturo., The Ecuadorian National Secretariat for Planning and Development-SENPLADES, The Ministry of Mines and Petroleum (now the Ministry of Non-Renewable Natural Resources)., Environmental Ministry, Agencia Agua de Cuenca- Consejo Nacional de Recursos Hidricos
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCoordinadora Nacional por la Defensa de la Vida y la Soberania-CNDVS (National Coordinating Committee for the Defense of Life and Sovereignty)., Accion Ecologica, Comision Ecumenica de Derechos Humanos-CEDHU (The Ecumenical Human Rights Commission), Ombudsman
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The government is following its own interests without taking into consideration the local inhabitants opinions and willingness.
Sources and Materials

Ecuadorian Constitution

Mining Law

Mining mandate

The Code of territorial Organization


Gowans, Richard M., Paul Gribble C. Eng., Malcolm Buck P.Eng. 2006. Technical report on the Alejandra north vein Rio Blanco gold and silver project feasibility study, Ecuador. Micon International Limited. In: (last accessed in April 5, 2012).
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Sacher, William and Alberto Acosta. 2012. La minera a gran escala en el Ecuador. Anlisis y datos estadsticos sobre la minera industrial en el Ecuado. Abya-Yala-Universisad Politecnica Salesiana. 2012.

Latorre, Sara. 2009. El ecologismo popular. Pasado y Presente. IEE-FLACSO.


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Other CommentsImpactos especificos sobre mujeres: Pérdida de tranquilidad y libertad porque las empresas han hecho ingresar a sus trabajadores a la fuerza y la policía ha reprimido de forma violenta las manifestaciones. Se han producido muchas situaciones ilegales en las instancias gubernamentales y acciones corruptas de actores políticos que pretenden invisibilizar la oposición a estos proyectos, especialmente descalificando a las organizaciones de mujeres.Pese al machismo violento que ha generado cacicazgos políticos y económicos que son defensores de la minería, las mujeres han perdido el miedo a expresarse y a buscar su propio proyecto de vida, lo cual les ha llevado a tejer lazos soróricos con mujeres de otras comunidades e ir compartiendo saberes para implementar iniciativas ecológicas sustentables. Incluso su trabajo de concientización en los colegios y grupos de jóvenes las ha llevado a generar capacidades de comunicación radial, artística entre otras.
Meta Information
ContributorSara Latorre
Last update06/03/2017