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Rio Tinto Zinc in Molleturo, Ecuador


Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ) started exploration activities in the area of Molleturo in 1994 and one year later it discovered a gold mineralization on the Canoas concession. That year also emerged social unrest among communities belonging to the parishes of Molleturo and Chaucha. Among the main reasons were unaccomplished economic promises made by the company as well as land tenure conflicts and environmental concerns. The company began to t work in the Molleturo Protective Forest, an area that embraces 25 watersheds and important source of water for agriculture and human consumption. As a result of RTZs presence in the area local conflicts among communities disrupted the peaceful life together. In light of this situation, communities opposing mining activities demanded the RTZs withdrawal from their locality. Authorities did not respond to their claims and RTZ continued with its prospective activities in the area. In 1997 the company left the country after stating that these mineral deposits were not profitable in economic terms. However, in 1996 the mining firm IMC signed a joint venture agreement with RTZ and in 1999 this same firm re-initiated RTZs previous exploring activities in the area

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Rio Tinto Zinc in Molleturo, Ecuador
State or province:Azuay
Location of conflict:Molleturo
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:Silver
Project Details and Actors
Project details

At that time the RTZs concession was named Canoas but there is limited information about this case.

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Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:1995
Company names or state enterprises:Rio Tinto Zinc RTZ Mining and Exploration Ltd. (RTZ) from Australia
Rio Tinto (Rio Tinto ) from United Kingdom
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Energy and Mines , The Ecuadorian National Institute for Forests, Nature and Wildlife
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Accion Ecologica
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageUnknown
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsPotential: 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
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Withdrawal of company/investment
The company left the area after finishing its exploration activities.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:While the mining company left the area, it seems that the main reason for that was not local opposition. Actually, the company managed to finish the exploration phase and currently there is another mining company interested in exploiting these mineral resources.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Mining Law

Ecuadorian Constitution

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Sacher, William and Alberto Acosta. 2012. La minera a gran escala en el Ecuador. Analisis y datos estadsticos sobre la minera industrial en el Ecuado. Abya-Yala-Universisad Politecnica Salesiana.

Accion Ecolgica. 1997. RTZ y ODIN se marchan del pais. Alerta Verde 49.

IMC web page:
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Meta information
Contributor:Sara Latorre
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:866
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