Many fast and playful hummingbirds surprise the tourists who come to see the “window to the forest” located at Los Armadillos bus stop, on the Calacalí-Nanegalito road, in the canton of Quito. Some flutter between the trees and occasionally approach the bird bath placed on the site, while others fly over the heads of amazed visitors.
From this window you can also breathe unusually clean air – especially compared to that of the city – and you can see the vast area of green vegetation characteristic of Chocó in the Andes, which its inhabitants say would be at risk of mining.
This location is part of more than 314 establishments that provide services for eco, community, agritourism, bird watching and adventure tourism among others. It is that in the sector there are 72 tourist attractions, of which 25 are cultural events, and 47 natural sites. Thus, there are also dozens of other businesses that sell more than 100 organic products such as: panela, cocoa, tropical fruits, dairy products, palm hearts, organic coffee, some of which are exported.
Teolinda Calle, born in Choco and owner of Los Armadillos restaurant, who is also an advocate for the Quito No Mining initiative, explains that these days several of the residents, as well as about 1,000 volunteers from different areas, have moved right into the city of Quito to collect signatures to generate a popular consultation. The idea is to ask the people of Quito if they want to ban large, medium, small and artisanal mining and the granting of concessions in this area.
After two months they have collected 210,000 signatures, meaning they now have the required 200,000 signatures and even a remnant and will present them next Tuesday, September 20. However, they say they know from past experience that they need to get more signatures, so these days will be key to getting about 150,000 more, so there is no excuse for disapproving this civil process.
Teolinda says that among the challenges they have encountered in collecting signatures in the city is that people do not know what Andean Chocó is and think of it as just a point between the city and the beach. In fact, the Chocó part of the Andes is one of the 600 biospheres in the world and the seventh declared as such in Ecuador and is located in the canton of Quito in the parishes of Nono, Calacali, Covenant, Gualea, Nanegalito and Nanegal. The residents, who currently number 18,000 in the area, have managed to declare four municipal protected areas in this sector. (Pachijal, Mashpi, Yunguilla and Camino de los Yumbos) Y the Andean Bear Corridor. It has even been declared a model forest.
He believes that because this sector is productive for tourism and other ventures, this sector is proof that “you can live off nature without destroying nature”.
Inti Arcos also lived as a child in the Miraflores Valley area of Nanegalito. He is the coordinator of the Commonwealth of Chocó Andino and has his own business called Intillacta. What was born as a canopy system has moved somewhat away from tourism and is now more of a school forest that seeks to teach the importance of this biodiverse area. He explains that in these forests and in the rural areas of Quito is the future of the people of Quito, as these sectors provide the food, oxygen and water we need to continue to exist. Arcos believes that mining is a terrible threat not only from an environmental point of view, but also because it disrupts the social fabric, the peace of these populations.
As part of that Pachijal River Conservation and Sustainable Use Area, He says the idea is to guarantee other forms of production that allow to prove that it is possible to develop other economies. But he also commented that the possibility of attracting investments in the area of carbon storage and fixation in forests. He explains that right now, as part of the fight against climate change, there are people internationally who are trying to invest in the problem. He says that this is an option that should be taken with tweezers, as there should be an opportunity for this money to reach the public.
However, the northwestern Quito or Choco sector of the Andes is also rich in minerals. That is why there are currently twelve mining concessions in the territory. of which two (Melinaciano-Santa Barbara and Natural Resources) they would have permits for exploration but not for exploitation, according to residents. However, there has not been a good rapprochement process with the community and rather confrontations have already been generated
Maria Blanquita López, Fanny Duran and Delia López are three women who say they have taken up the baton of resistance against mining in Covenant and Gualea. This after other residents had a problem with the Melinachangó mining company when they detained a truckload of mineral material that the company was transporting even though it did not have a permit to do so, according to community members. These residents are persecuted, counted, and often abused and insulted by those who defend mining in the sector.
María Blanquita is the president of the producer cooperative El Paraíso Panela (Copropap), with 50 members. He assures that with their venture they have succeeded in producing an organic panel for export. In the area of Gualea and Covenant there are at least six of this type of productive groups that even have a green seal for export. are: Copropap, Las Cumbres Recap, Nuevo Amanecer, Gualeanitos and Capira. If mining goes all the way into the area, the green seals will be lost, he says. She asks the state to listen to them, assures that their economic activity is profitable and that they have even paid $200,000 in taxes.
On the topic andl The Ministry of the Environment confirmed that it had to suspend the mining company Melinachangó twice (code 401429) lFollowing inspections related to the removal of material and responding to reports of irregularities made by Covenant Parish GAD. It also seeks to implement immediate corrective actions for the findings identified in the inspections carried out and submit an action plan that sets out the corrective measures to correct the findings.
In addition, an “administrative process” was requested when it was confirmed that the 2020 annual production report had been submitted to PIK (Agency for Regulation and Control of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources), where the owner of the mine has carried out exploration/exploitation of metals and sale of gold, in violation of the provisions of Art. 26 of the Mining Act,” the ministry announced.
The Eco-Ministry pointed out that the concession mining Melinachangó code: 401429, is currently in the process of environmental regulation for the exploration and exploitation of mineralized material (gold), within the framework of the regime of small mining, responsible for the National Environment Authority. However, this newspaper also consulted with The Agency for Energy Regulation and Control (ARC), an organization that responded that to date “the holders of mining rights Natural Resources Company and Melinachangó Santa Bárbara are legally registered and in force to carry out mining exploration and exploration activities. (YO)