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In Napo, the area where mining is registered increased by 210 times in 24 years. Period between 2016 and 2020 was where it gained momentum, reveals study

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In February of this year, we Ecuadorians observed with horror the brutal impact of mining in the town of Yutzupino, in the province of Napo. What used to be Amazonian forests became about 240 pools used by illegal miners to wash stone material in search of gold. However, this is not the only area of ​​this province that has been affected by this extractive activity.

A study by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), published on August 3, details that the dynamics of The areas dedicated to mining activity in Napo show a considerable increase between 1996 and 2020. In 1996, 2.6 hectares dedicated to mining were detected, while in 2020 the surface reached 556.8 ha, an increase of almost 210 times in 24 years.

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Ambition for gold contaminated the water of Yutzupino, in Napo, with mercury, diesel and gasoline, according to groups

“The consequences (of mining) include the opening of access roads, deforestation, and contamination of aquatic ecosystems that affect the local population, including indigenous communities. These mining activities in many cases are artisanal and semi-mechanized with a high impact as they do not contemplate control measures and do not comply with regulations or have government supervision”, states the investigation.

Between 40 and 70 hectares of land were damaged by illegal miners in Yutzupino. There is also river pollution. Photo: Archive

In Napo, 19.6% of its surface is covered by indigenous territories, mostly of Kichwa nationality, while protected natural areas cover 53.7%. There are 288 mining concessions that occupy 3.14% of the surface of the province. Most of these concessions are dedicated to the extraction of gold and stone materials and are concentrated mainly (97%) in the Tena and Carlos Julio Arosemena Tola cantons, according to data from the Mining Regulation and Control Agency.

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According to MAAP, The accelerated expansion of mining activity within this province took place mainly in the 2016-2020 period, in which 72% of the total expanded mining area was registered.

The organization, through the use of high-resolution satellite images, identified 120 points where mining activity is currently taking place. 10% of the identified points are located within protected natural areas, the most affected being the Colonso Chalupas Biological Reserve.

For example, on the banks of the Anzu River, located 2.5 km from the town of Nueva Esperanza, in the canton of Carlos Arosemena Tola, five kilometers southwest of the Yutzupino case, between March 2017 and March 2022, 281 hectares were identified as affected by the mining activity. In March 2017, the affected area was 51.3 hectares, this area increased by 127 hectares until May 2019. In the following two years, 2020 and 2021, an additional increase of 89.9 hectares was recorded. Finally, between May 2021 and March 2022, an additional 12.9 hectares were affected.

Sylvia Villacís, who coordinated the study and who belongs to the Ecociencia organization, affirms that mining activity has exploded not only in Napo but throughout the Ecuadorian Amazon and that there is a lack of control by the State, but there are also “mafias”.

It would be interesting to analyze what is behind this activity. As Ecociencia our interest is to provide this scientific data so that some type of action is taken, we are warning of these crimes that are taking place. For example, in the case of yutzupino a part of the river was diverted to extract the gold and this supposes an affectation to the aquatic ecosystem, but beyond that there is an affectation to the communities that are downstream that depend on the fish and the water. There is also an impact on tourism“, it states.

With the start of the pandemic, assures Leo Cerda, an Amazonian Kichwa and spokesperson for the Napo Resiste Collective, the gold rush also arrived in the province, since the concession of 7,125 hectares of Amazonian forests located in the basins of the Jatunyaku and Anzu rivers (which later become the Napo river, one of the largest in the Amazon) to promote mining projects.

This means that the problem is not only the contaminated water that is drunk by the communities, but also that the fish are going to be contaminated and people are going to eat those fish. Mercury accumulates in the human body until the individual becomes ill or dies from high levels of this metal.“, Explain.

Ecociencia is also carrying out an analysis throughout the Alto Nangaritza Protected Forest, in Zamora Chinchipe, to show what is happening with extractive activities within conservation units. Illegal mining is also taking place in the area.

In addition to the impact on humans, the use of mercury is also affecting species such as the pink dolphin, which is in danger of extinction. A recent study by the Oceanids Foundation states that the amount of mercury found in the bodies of cetaceans is alarming. The metal permeates the fish that the dolphins eat. (YO)

Source: Eluniverso

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