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Indigenous Groups in Ecuador Win Major Victory in Oil and Mining Conflicts

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In what has been considered a historic decision, Ecuador's Constitutional Court has ruled in favor of Indigenous groups, saying they have the right to refuse oil drilling, mining, and other extractive developments on their land. 

The ruling came about in response to a lawsuit filed by the A'i Kofán and Waorani communities of Sinagoe and Pastaza province, which argued that their human rights were being infringed upon by a law allowing oil exploration and mining projects to go forward without consulting Indigenous communities. 

According to Amazon Frontlines, the nonprofit group that represented the A'i Kofán and Waorani people in their lawsuit: "The decision is a setback to Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso's objectives since he had planned to expand mining and double oil production in coming years."

In addition, Ecuador's highest court has deemed Decree 751 unlawful, indefinitely forbidding oil drilling in the buffer zone of Ecuador's Yasuni National Park, a UNESCO biosphere reserve. This is a respite for Indigenous people living in isolation within the park. The decision is critical because it would halt the construction of seven oil platforms in Yasuni that were previously planned.

This is a win for the country's 14 Indigenous groups, who make up nearly 8 percent of Ecuador's population and 70 percent of the Amazon rainforest. The ruling means oil exploration and mining projects must now seek consent from Indigenous communities that are affected by their activities. The decision will significantly impact the Indigenous culture in Ecuador, which the expansion of the oil industry has already threatened. They say that oil extraction and mining projects threaten their cultural heritage, crowd out wildlife, and damage rivers and forests.

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