A group from the San Gerardo community called "United for Development" submitted a legal challenge citing a violation of their rights as a result of the recent actions of the Ecuadorian National Electoral Council (CNE) to endorse the anti-mining referendum. As a result of the suspension, the Constitutional Court will have final legal jurisdiction to determine its constitutionality.
"We are very pleased that this decision ensures the rights of the local group and those of our surrounding communities are upheld and respected. We are encouraged that the Constitutional Court will ultimately determine the constitutionality of the referendum using the appropriate legal process provided for within Ecuadorian law and that the referendum will be suspended until such time," said INV Metals CEO Candace MacGibbon.
The Constitutional Court acknowledged receipt of the application for an opinion on the constitutionality of two concurrent referendums previously submitted for evaluation by CNE. The second referendum application was submitted by United for Development to hold a referendum in Girón and San Fernando Cantons in support of the areas of influence of Loma Larga benefiting from mining royalties from responsible mining.
The Constitutional Court has said it will consider and vote on the issue of the constitutionality of both referendums. A timeline for a decision has yet to be determined.
INV Metals said it had been advised by its legal counsel, supported by previous challenges by the Ministry of Energy and Non-renewable Resources, the CNE referendum was not constitutional on the basis that Article 261 of the Constitution states, "The central state shall have exclusive jurisdiction over … energy resources, minerals, hydrocarbons, water resources, biodiversity, and forest resources."
A November 2018 feasibility study on Loma Larga contemplates an underground mine with a daily production rate of about 3,000 tonnes in the early years growing to 3,400tpd in its fifth year to annually produce 206,000 ounces of gold over an initial 12-year mine life.
The Loma Larga deposit is not within Girón Canton. However, the processing and tailings facilities are proposed to be constructed within the Cristal concession, which is primarily within the Girón Canton.
"The process plant site is located where [previous project owner] IAMGOLD was thinking of putting it and had acquired surface rights. We could relocate it closer to the mine, which could bring cost and infrastructure reductions," MacGibbon previously told Mining Journal.