Ecuador voters resoundingly supported referendums to block oil drilling in a biodiverse rainforest and gold mining in the Chocó Andino on Sunday. With more than 90% of ballots counted, 58% of Ecuadorians voted to ban new oil drilling in Yasuní national park in the Amazon rainforest. The national park, one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, is home to the Tagaeri and Taromenane peoples, among the world’s last “uncontacted” indigenous communities living voluntarily separate from the outside world.
The ban on new drilling will keep approximately 726 million barrels of oil in the ground. Quito residents also voted to prohibit gold mining in the sensitive Chocó Andino biosphere near the city by a margin of 68% to 31%.
“Today is a historic day! As a Waorani woman and mother, I feel overjoyed with Ecuadorians’ resounding decision to stop oil drilling in my people’s sacred homeland,” Nemonte Nenquimo, an Indigenous Waorani leader and winner of the Goldman prize for the environment, told The Guardian. “Finally, we are going to kick oil companies out of our territory! This is a major victory for all Indigenous peoples, for the animals, the plants, the spirits of the forest and our climate!” (Ecuador vote: The Guardian, AP, Bloomberg $, Quartz, Reuters, AFP, CNN, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, Grist, Al Jazeera, Climate Home, Axios, CNN, The Hill, HuffPost, Common Dreams)