State of emergency declared in Ecuador after clash at copper mine

Shuar dance in Logroño, Ecuador. Image courtesy of Jlh249 on Wikimedia Commons.

A confrontation between local indigenous peoples and police at a mine in Ecuador has forced a state of emergency.

According to media reports, members of the Shuar people attacked the Exploracobres copper mine, killing at least one policeman and wounding several others.

About 60 were believed to be involved in the attack; they accuse the mine and its Chinese owner of encroaching on their territory. A confrontation in November injured 14 police officers and a guard at the mine.

Ecuador under President Rafael Correa is trying to develop the country’s mining industry but pro-mining efforts have been challenged. In 2012 indigenous protesters marched across the country for two weeks against large-scale mining projects.

In the latest uprising in the Amazonian region, Correa referred to the attackers as “the usual violent ones, disguised as ‘ancestrals,’” quotes the Wall Street Journal.

But indigenous organizations blame the government for failing to listen and “trampling on the constitutional rights of indigenous Ecuadoreans.”

The state of emergency was declared just a day after Ecuador signed a contract with Canada’s Lundin Gold (TSX:LUG) that allows the miner to move ahead with its Fruta del Norte gold project, the country’s largest.

The Vancouver-based company plans to build and operate an underground mine, along with a processing centre at the site, located in the southeastern Amazon province of Zamora Chinchipe.