Court Decision rejects the petitioner’s submission on procedural technicalities, and doesn’t reflect on the merits.
Any project in any industrial sector with potential environmental impacts should be consulted to communities as part of the licensing process (prior consultation). This is not the kind of consultation at issue; instead, petitioners resorted to the public consultation process, a mechanism contemplated for quite different political participation purposes.
Under the Ecuadorian Constitution (EC), public consultation requests should be approved by the Constitutional Court (CC) before the National Electoral Council calls for a local or national vote, in order to ensure that the subject matter proposition is consistent with constitutional provisions. Respondents -including mining companies, business associations, government agencies, business chambers and other stakeholders- argued thorough amicus curiae that public consultations should not be allowed by the CC to the extent it calls into question constitutional or legal rights or would otherwise contradict constitutional provisions. Also, to the extent a given consultation is not intended to amend the law -there is a very specific and qualified national process in that regard-, the CC must also ensure that consultation requests do not attempt to by-pass the legal constitutional process that would otherwise be necessary in order to change the legal framework.
In case 0002-19-CP, where the consultation’s question would have called fora vote on whether mining is accepted or not, the CC could have rule out, once and for good, public consultation requests of the sort, particularly as the EC provides for specific mechanisms of prior consultation designed to ensure community participation. The CC avoided dealing on the case merits and limited itself to reject the petition on legal standing grounds and further technicalities. Given this outcome, the industry should expect anti-mining groups to reformulate their legal approach and come back in the short term with a number of public consultation requests to be heard by the CC.
It should be stressed that the threat the mining industry is facing as a result of the abuse of the consultation mechanism may extend to any other industry, so it can be also expected that other business sectors will get organized and join the defence of the rule of law.
The mining industry has still a number of legal and communication initiatives to advance its cause and deal with the upcoming wave of political consultations, this time hopefully through a proactive strategy.
For more information and deeper understanding of this ruling or of the legal and political battle ahead, please contact INFO@TZVS.EC.