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The Extractive Imperative in Populous Indigenous Territories: The Shuar, Copper Mining, and Environmental Injustices in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Rudel, Thomas K.
Human ecology 2018 v.46 no.5 pp. 727-734
copper, indigenous peoples, mining, nongovernmental organizations, politics, probability, violence, Amazonia, Ecuador
During the past three decades, mines have increased in number at the same time that indigenous populations have grown in size and acquired more land. The intersection of these two trends suggests that, increasingly, mining companies have tried to exploit mineral deposits on lands populated and controlled by indigenous peoples. These ventures touched off conflicts between organized indigenous peoples and state supported miners. The copper mining controversy in the Ecuadorian Amazon exemplifies this pattern. Legacies from earlier mestizo land invasions in the form of active NGOs and an extensive land base made Shuar resistance to the mines much more likely. Increasingly assertive national political leaders, pursuing an extractive imperative, reinforced the miners’ efforts to extract copper from deposits near Shuar settlements. To reduce the probability of violent conflict between these parties, indigenous people should have a seat at the table when negotiations between the mining companies and the state occur.