Mining Resisters of the Year: Colectivo Defensores del Agua y La Vida


Mining Resisters: Colectivo Defensores del Agua y La Vida—Water and Life Defenders Collective (several communities organized)

    • Southern Ecuador: Fierro Urku or Urco Cordillera (Iron Mountain Cordillera) is located mostly within Loja Province. It spans over neighbour province, El Oro. Communities from the four directions around Fierro Urku are coming together to defend this water source and ecosystem.
    • Links to resisters webpage (in Spanish):

Location: Gualel community territory, Loja province

Mining Company: Cornerstone Metals Inc.

Nominated and Written By: Victor Sauca

  • Project name: Caña Brava.
    • Located in Gualel community territory, Loja province.
    • “1.150 hectares in concession to extract Gold/Silver/Copper Porphyry and High Sulphidation Epithermal styles of mineralization” (Cornerstone, 2019).
    • Exploration Phase: Advanced.
      • “So far, 4 mineralized zones have been identified and a phase 1 drilling program of 3,200m is proposed. Cornerstone began work on an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for Caña Brava in May 2018, approval of which is a condition to obtaining the environmental license to drill the property” (Cornerstone, 2019).
    • Free, Prior and Informed Consent: no FPIC obtained, not even consultation with the affected communities.

Fierro Urku is a paramo ecosystem considered a “hydric star” due to its key role as a hydric source to 4 water basins ( Catamayo, Santiago, Jubones and Puyango) in Loja and El Oro provinces and 6 rivers (Guayabal, Trapichillo, Santiago, Tenta, San Luis y Ambocas), whose waters reach the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. In 2018, a new hummingbird (Estrella de garganta azul-Blue neck star—Oreotrochilus specie) was found in the ecosystem within the mining concession. It is an endemic bird to that area around the Loja-El Oro provinces’ border. Due to the small area for its habitat, this bird was declared in “critical danger.” Seven communities that amount more than 36,000 inhabitants will be directly affected in Loja province and around 20,000 in Saraguro. Estimates of the affected population in El Oro are not available yet.

Thirty years ago, foreign miners were expelled from Fierro Urku, and in 2005, other miners did not obtain consent for mining from Yaku and Gualel communities. Nowadays, communities from the four directions around Fierro Urku are gathering in Suruwiñay Lake (the biggest lake in Fierro Urku), holding resistance activities and consolidating collective unity. In San Lucas community (Saraguro, Loja), people are raising awareness about the importance of Fierro Urku as a water source for human and non-human forms of life and ecosystem balance. They are reaching out to people through social media, blogspot, Youtube videos and communal meetings—including activities such as the projection of the Peruvian documentary “Hija de la Laguna” (The Daughter of the Lake) in the  communities. They are also organizing forums at educational institutions to raise awareness about the importance of the ecosystem among students, youths and children; local small entrepreneurs are also helping with organization and logistics. In addition, together with other 30 Ecuadorian organizations and Indigenous communities they have written and submitted a letter to Cornerstone Capital Resources in March 1st, 2019 (English version here). In this letter they have expressed the damage the company is doing in four provinces in northern and southern Ecuador with other extractive projects and demanded Cornerstone to abandon their territories; they also have highlighted joint resistance at national level to stop the company if it does not listen to their demands.

The unity among the communities, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and the historical tradition of resistance they show to protect a paramo that is critical for the future of all the interdependent beings within and beyond Fierro Urku ecosystem. Most important is the legacy of consciousness they are raising among the youths, who will be the inheritors of this territory soon.

For more information:


Join us to celebrate BC Mining Resisters of the Year at the GALA OF RESISTANCE on Wednesday, May 1st in Vancouver, BC, unceded Coast Salish Territories.

This entry was posted in BC Mining Resisters Award, Community Resistance, Conflict and Repression, Environment and Health, Local and Indigenous Rights, Social Costs, Private Profit and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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