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Ecuadorian voters decide to stop drilling in the Yasuní and halt new mining in Chocó Andino

Published on August 21, 2023

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Ecuadorian citizens have cast their votes in favor of stop extraction of crude oil reserves in the ITT block within Yasuní National Park and putting an end to new mining activities in the Chocó Andino region. The outcomes of these popular consultations, held on August 20th, have constitutional significance, requiring immediate compliance under Article 106 of Ecuador’s Constitution. As these results are officially announced by the National Electoral Council, they will hold legal weight.

Preserving the Yasuní ITT Block

The National Court, endorsing the popular consultation, mandates that the State is barred from initiating new contracts for oil exploitation in Block 43 following a positive vote. Furthermore, the State is obligated to take swift actions for environmental restoration and safeguarding the territories of Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation.

The Court’s directive specifies a one-year timeframe, commencing from the official result notification, to implement the consultation’s outcomes. However, closing the wells connected to the Yasuní consultation could extend over a period exceeding five years.

Diego Navarrete, a Petroecuador reservoir engineer, details that the Yasuní ITT field encompassed approximately 230 oil wells and the process of ceasing all operations, such as well drilling, oil extraction, and treatment, could span five to six years. Notably, the ITT field’s 12 platforms, distributed across Ishpingo, Tambococha, and Tiputini (ITT), facilitated multiple well placements within a small area to minimize environmental impact. Disassembling this infrastructure presents technical and logistical complexities.

Challenges of Dismantling

The deconstruction process entails three phases. Initially, Petroecuador must decommission the wells, which involves removing subsoil equipment, like pipes and pumps, and sealing the wells with cement plugs. The second phase involves dismantling and depressurizing processing stations while addressing pipelines. The final phase pertains to environmental rehabilitation, restoring soils and initiating reforestation campaigns.

This extensive process necessitates hiring specialized firms and substantial funding. Navarrete emphasizes the dependency on resources from pre-contractual stages and directions from the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

Chocó Andino Mining Ban

Within the Metropolitan District of Quito, over 1.8 million residents partook in the popular consultation for Chocó Andino, culminating in an agreement to prohibit metallic mining in the Chocó Andino Commonwealth. Minister of Energy and Mines Fernando Santos clarifies that this prohibition does not apply retroactively; existing mining concessions will remain unaffected. However, future concessions for metallic mining within Chocó Andino are no longer permitted.

Santos underscores that the consultation’s outcome is the highest expression of legal will and thus stands as law. Existing concessions, acquired under previous regulations, will persist regardless of the phase (exploration or exploitation). The Ministry of Environment, Water, and Ecological Transition confirms that ongoing mining title applications in the region will be denied based on the consultation’s result.

Ecuadorian citizens’ decisions in these popular consultations carry significant legal ramifications. The preservation of Yasuní lands and the cessation of new mining in Chocó Andino underscore the nation’s commitment to environmental protection and Indigenous rights.

The complex process of operational cessation and infrastructure dismantling will require careful execution over several years. Meanwhile, the Chocó Andino ban on metallic mining secures the region’s natural areas for the foreseeable future.


  1. Where will they find the money for the Yasuni? Will this decrease oil production and badly needed income for the state?

    • Lourdes, Please look farther into our future. We can no loner plunder the Earth like there is no tomorrow. We have a bright future with alternative energies, and this is a remarkable first step! Be proud of your fellow Ecuadorians for making this brave move!! Bravo Ecuador!!!

  2. A fraction of the multi-billion dollar annual profits of a single major oil industry would amply pay for the dismantling and some degree of restoration to the land and waterways. There is no lack of money, there is a lack of political will to keep industries accountable.

    Chevron-Texaco was found criminally guilty of catastrophic acts against the people and land of the Ecuadorian Amazon to the tune of $9BILLION but has yet to pay a single penny.

    The article focuses exclusively on the inconvenience and delay of halting an extractive industry without even mentioning the impact on human and non-human lives which motivated the collective consensus to stop it.

  3. There is a price to pay for going green. You pay now and you pay later. Considering Ecuador’s ongoing financial shortfalls, perhaps a more practical path would be tighter controls on the oil and mineral companies, but allow them to continue their work, which is a much-needed source of employment and tax dollars.

    This will of the people is a typical result of voters who fail to look at the big picture and the consequences of not considering long-range implications.

    • Thank you Dawn. You don’t sound like a native and neither am I but I love their country and it’s people so I a, glad of the vote.;

    • Paul, Ecuador could solve 90% of its financial shortfall 1) by making police enforce rules, 2) making people take responsibility for their actions. The problems are that police can stand by watching a theft while playing on their cell phones, for example. Police are absolutely useless When there are no consequences, people lose their have


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