For Immediate Release, April 15, 2021

Contact:

Constanza Prieto Figelist, Earth Law Center, +1 (202) 621-3877, cpfigelist@earthlaw.org
Natalia Greene, Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, +593 99 944 3724, natalia@garn.org
Alejandro Olivera, Center for Biological Diversity, +52 612 1040604, aolivera@biologicaldiversity.org

Ecuador Court Urged to Protect Endangered Frogs From Mining Project, Enforce Constitutional ‘Rights of Nature’

QUITO, Ecuador— Environmental groups filed a legal brief today urging the Provincial Court of Imbabura in Ecuador to halt all environmental permits for a mining project because the government failed to consider the mine’s effects on two endangered, recently discovered frogs, among other vulnerable species.

This failure violates the “Rights of Nature” enshrined in Ecuador’s constitution, according to today’s brief, which supports a lawsuit filed by the community in Imbabura.

Ecuador's Ministry of Water and Environment granted the mining concession and environmental license. But the project’s Complementary Environmental Impact Assessment, completed in 2018, did not consider the effects on two endangered frog species, the long-snouted harlequin frog (Atelopus longirostris) and confusing rocket frog (Ectopoglossus confusus). As a result, the mining project in northern Ecuador may proceed without any protective measures for the frogs.

“The confusing rocket frog and long-snouted harlequin are highly endangered species teetering on the brink of extinction,” said Alejandro Olivera, a senior scientist and Mexico representative at the Center for Biological Diversity. “They must be protected from mining activities, which would further fragment and degrade their precious habitat.”

The court case challenges a copper and molybdenum mine owned by ENAMI, the national mining company of Ecuador, and its Chilean partners. A lower court judge has already held that the government’s failures violated the rights of nature and suspended the mine’s environmental permit.

“The judge recognized the ministry's failure to consider these endangered frogs in the environmental assessment of 2018 and hence the probable violation of the rights of Nature,” said Natalia Greene, from the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. “The rights of the rivers are also not considered, and hence the Amicus Curiae highlights the direct impact of the project with irreparable effects, rivers that are also rights bearing entities under Ecuador’s Constitution.”

Earth Law Center, Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, and the Center for Biological Diversity submitted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief before the Ecuadorian Court. It asks the court to protect the frog's habitat and robustly enforce constitutional provisions that establish basic rights of nature, or “Pachamama,” including the rights to existing and to restoration.

“Twelve years after first recognizing the Rights of Nature in its constitution, Ecuador must uphold these rights in earnest, including by these endangered frogs from devastating mining concessions,” said Constanza Prieto Figelist, Latin American Legal Director at Earth Law Center. “Enforcing the Rights of Nature will also protect the human right to a healthy environment and rights of future generations because we all rely upon healthy, functioning ecosystems for our very survival.”

Allowing the mining to proceed would also be contrary to the national objective of achieving good living (“sumak kawsay”) and violate the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, the groups argue. It would also be a violation of the fundamental and non-negotiable principles of nature that humanity must respect to live harmoniously and flourish.

Earth Law Center (www.earthlawcenter.org) is a 501c3 organization that works to transform the law to recognize and protect nature’s inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve. They recently released the first-ever law school coursebook on “Earth law,” which is an emerging body of ecocentric law, including the Rights of Nature.

Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (organizer@therightsofnature.org) is a network of organizations and individuals committed to the universal adoption and implementation of legal systems that recognize, respect and enforce “Rights of Nature”.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.