Investing in Mining in Ecuador: Challenges and Successes

Roque Bustamante, a partner at Flor Bustamante Pizarro & Hurtado, and Claudia Bustamante, an associate at the firm, provide a comprehensive overview of the mining investment landscape in Ecuador.

Published on 15 April 2024
ROQUE BUSTAMANTE, Flor Bustamante Pizarro & Hurtado, Chambers Expert Focus contributor
Roque Bustamante
Ranked in Energy & Natural Resources in Chamber Latin America
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CLAUDIA BUSTAMANTE, Flor Bustamante Pizarro & Hurtado, Chambers Expert Focus contributor
Claudia Bustamante
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Investors face significant challenges in initiating large-scale mining projects in Ecuador. These include  political opposition and legal hurdles; political factions and groups in Ecuador often perceive mining as harmful, leading to opposition through referendums or legal actions aimed at suspending operations. Environmental concerns and the lack of consultation with affected communities are central to these challenges. The Ecuadorian Constitutional Court has set precedents emphasising the precautionary principle, requiring that even merely potential environmental damage is enough to suspend mining operations, as seen in the landmark Los Cedros case.

Another major challenge is the lack of legislation for consultations with indigenous communities, despite Ecuador’s ratification of International Labour Organization Convention 169. The absence of this legislation has led to the suspension of significant mining projects due to improperly conducted consultations or the absence of any consultations at all.

“In the Los Cedros case the Constitutional Court concluded that the Ministry of Environment had contravened the precautionary principle due to the risk of serious and irreversible damage.”

Despite these obstacles, the video also highlights successful mining investments in Ecuador. Examples include the Mirador and Fruta del Norte projects, which demonstrate the potential for profitable mining operations that benefit investors, the government, and local communities. These projects demonstrate the importance of government support, foreign investment, and adaptation to Ecuador’s unique environmental and social conditions.

The video emphasises the need for mining companies to effectively engage with local communities and navigate Ecuador’s regulatory environment. Success in Ecuador’s mining sector hinges on the company’s ability to interact harmoniously with local communities, landowners, and the government. Companies are advised to consider the benefits to the Ecuadorian government and the ownership rights of landowners. The importance of respecting Ecuador’s dense population and diverse community interests is also stressed.

“Mirador is exporting close to a billion dollars a year in copper.”

In conclusion, while the Ecuadorian mining sector presents significant challenges, including political, legal, and social obstacles, there are also considerable opportunities for successful and profitable investments. The key to success lies in respectful and strategic engagement with local communities, compliance with environmental standards, and adaptability to the specific legal and social landscape of Ecuador.

Flor Bustamante Pizarro & Hurtado

Flor Bustamante Pizarro & Hurtado, Chambers Expert Focus cobtributor
2 ranked departments and 4 ranked lawyers
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