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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

Name of conflict:International Minerals Corporation (IMC) 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

The 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:5799
Level of Investment:120000000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2004
Company names or state enterprises:San Luis Minerals S.A./Internacional Minerals Corporation (IMC) from Canada
Relevant government actors:Ecuadorian 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 organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Coordinadora 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

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
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-economical 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)
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The government is following its own interests without taking into consideration the local inhabitants opinions and willingness.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Mining Law

The Code of territorial Organization

Ecuadorian Constitution

Mining mandate

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

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).

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

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.

Other comments:Impactos 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

Contributor:Sara Latorre
Last update18/08/2019