In 2008, Ecuador adopted a new Constitution that recognizes the rights of nature, making it the first in the world to do so. This recognition means that natural ecosystems have the right to exist, thrive, and evolve. Additionally, the Constitution grants individuals and communities the right to defend these rights on behalf of nature.
Thanks to Ecuador's trailblazing Constitution, communities in the Intag Valley have just won a significant legal victory after a court ruled to halt copper mining in one of the world’s most biodiverse forests.
The court ruled that a Chilean copper producer had violated communities’ constitutional right to consultation as well as the rights of nature, thus canceling their mining licenses. The decision represents a major victory for communities in the Intag Valley, who have been resisting mining projects in the region for nearly 30 years in what locals say is the longest continuous resistance movement against mining in Latin America.
“It really seemed impossible to me to be able to achieve this. However, I knew that we were demanding what was fair and that we were telling the truth,” said Marcia Ramirez, a local community activist who has been part of the resistance since its inception. “We fought for the truth and for our rights, and today they are fulfilled.”
Two notable other cases in Ecuador have successfully invoked the rights of nature in recent years, showing that they can be used as a legal tool to protect the environment and the rights of communities. This latest ruling builds on these precedents and will likely have significant implications for future cases involving extractive industries in Ecuador.