The Intag Valley is the center of mining conflict in northern Ecuador, and home to some of the most outspoken activists against mining expansion in the country, including Isabel Anangonó and Carlos Zorilla. The people who live along the rushing waters of the Intag river have witnessed decades of struggle with mining companies in this region, and now find huge chunks of their territory — encompassing entire townships — sold in mining concessions. In the early part of the new millennium, the community banded together and fought against abuses by Canadian mining company Ascendant Copper, which used paramilitary force, pepper spray, and bullets to subdue the community. Residents of the Intag Valley refused to allow mining in their region, and locked up the miners and paramilitary security in their local church until authorities came to apprehend them.
Despite this history of resistance, the amount of land granted to international mining companies has only increased in recent years, and many corporations are actively engaged in prospecting within the valley, in direct violation of the wishes of the communities that live here.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, mining companies have accelerated their projects in the area, bringing in outside workers and putting the communities here at risk. With no local healthcare system, and Ecuador’s city hospitals already severely overloaded, there are no options for those who get sick. Because many in the communities don’t have savings to rely on, the restrictions on travel and work caused by the pandemic have left many here struggling just to survive.