- La Amazonía minada: Minería a gran escala y conflictos en el sur del Ecuador ed. by Karolien van Teijlingen et al.
La Amazonía minada: Minería a gran escala y conflictos en el sur del Ecuador
Quito: Universidad San Francisco de Quito/Ediciones Abya-Yala, 2017. 404 pp. Maps, photographs, references. $22.00 (ISBN: 978–9–942–09472–8).
Current global mining news and reports paint a clear picture of Ecuador as a mining country and “the world’s hottest new exploration destination” (Miningnews.net, 2018). This idea of Ecuador as a “mining country” is relatively recent. While geologic exploration of mineral deposits goes back to the late 1800s, sustained interest in international mining agreements did not take off until the mid-to-late 1990s, and high-value mineral mining activities accounted for less than 1% of its real gross domestic product (GDP) until 2004 (Wacaster, 2016). In contrast, since the 1970s, the sale of oil derivatives has accounted for about one third of Ecuador’s total value of exports, thoroughly “petrolizing” (Karl, 1997) the country’s politics and economics for decades. However, the volatile super cycle of primary commodities prices throughout the 2000s, together with Ecuador’s mature oilfields, have made oil dependence risky. “Ecuador, mining country” is part of a “post-oil,” governmental strategy to diversify Ecuador’s export revenue sources. A new Mining Law was approved in 2009 to incentivize foreign capital investment, and the old Natural Resources Ministry was broken down and reconstituted into a series of new resource governance entities, including a Ministry of Mining. To further solidify its mining reputation, in 2017, Ecuador became a sponsor of the 85th world convention on new projects and explorations, PDAC, one of the most important mining events in the world.
La Amazonía Minada is an empirically-driven social science anthology that traces how the turn to large-scale mining in Ecuador has been experienced in the Amazonian provinces of Azuay and Zamora Chinchipe, known to host world-class copper and gold deposits. Its Ecuadorian, North American, and European-based contributors examine local responses to the Mirador project, Ecuador’s first large-scale mining project, vis-a-vis political alternatives to Latin America’s “double crisis of neoliberalism and modernity” (Escobar, 2010, p. 2). In Ecuador, these political alternatives included a new constitution in 2008--remarkable for its recognition of human rights and the rights of nature and redefining the country as plurinational and intercultural--and the state-led project of [End Page 291] citizen wellbeing referred to as Buen Vivir, considered a rupture from dominant conceptions of development.
La Amazonía Minada pays attention to questions of structural inequality, plurality, and counter-hegemonic mobilization. The book is divided into four parts. Part I tracks how historical imaginaries of the Amazon as a national resource inform the current mining moment. As the authors point out, Ecuador might be a newcomer to large-scale mining, but not to extractive industries. From the export of bananas and cacao to oil, Ecuador’s nation-building is tied to the political economy of extraction—and mining is bent on reproducing some of the same pitfalls associated with this model. Part II tracks how large-scale mining unfolds within a “paisaje imbricado” (p. 117)— a plural, contentious space of already existing differences and inequalities, and where diverse territorialities collide. Fernandez-Salvador (Chapter 5), focuses on the case of the Shuar, and argues that while a sense of ancestral territoriality vis-à-vis the nation-state informs indigenous opposition to mining, political heterogeneity within the collective can deepen divisions and “individualize” (p. 144) political positions and actions. Continuing the analysis of local experiences, Yépez and van Teijlingen (Chapter 6) describe how the struggles of women against the expansion of large-scale mining are also struggles over social reproduction, and how the insertion of mining in local economies and ecologies means that women live “el proceso de la mineria” differently (p. 203).
Part III focuses on the articulation of knowledge production and the devaluation of local life, arguing that behind the...