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Honors Thesis

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Morgan Ruelle, Denise Humphreys Bebbington


For decades, Ecuador has been one of the preeminent petrostates in South America. However, in response to recent drops in global demand and pricing for oil products, the country has made serious commitments to further develop its mineral resources. By opening a new natural resource sector, Ecuador has firmly cemented itself as a primarily extractivist nation. In the process, the national government has frequently come into conflict with activist and community groups who protest the encroachment of extractive industry. This thesis explores the various dimensions of socio-environmental conflict created by large-scale mining projects in northern Ecuador with specific attention to the Intag Valley. It will first discuss the broader motivating factors underlying the Ecuadorian government’s increased investment in mining. Then, mining is investigated as a central driver of socio-environmental conflict within the Intag Valley, drawing from archival accounts of the region’s lengthy history of mining-related confrontation. Four broad categories of conflict are subsequently defined here: territorial dispossession, environmental disharmony, social discord, and gender inequities. In each category, mining projects create instances for conflict to emerge between local inhabitants, natural landscapes, and pro-mining interests, leading to a wide assortment of intracommunity disruptions. The investigation elaborates how these conflicts have manifested in numerous attempts made to extract Intag’s mineral reserves. Consequently, local opposition to mining has been persistent and widespread throughout the Intag Valley, with various resistance tactics implemented to counter each element of socio-environmental conflict. Concluding insights show that mitigating the impacts of mining-generated socio-environmental conflict should take policy priority in Ecuador under a foreign investment-oriented administration. Overall, to understand how and in what forms mining creates socio-environmental conflict holds salience for communities in Ecuador, and elsewhere around the world, who struggle to confront extractivist development agendas.

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.