Mining for Mother Earth. Governmentalities, sacred waters and nature's rights in Ecuador

Carolina Valladares*, R.A. Boelens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Getting public opinion to see ‘mining’ and ‘Nature’s Rights’ as non-contradictory and even equivalent and harmonious, calls for far-reaching power strategies. Nature was entitled to rights by Ecuador’s Constitution at about the same time that the Government began promoting mining as central to Ecuador’s future. Building this equivalence to make ‘mining mean nature’, and materialize large-scale mining in the Quimsacocha páramo wetlands, the State and its institutions tested new tactics to manage territory, coined new imaginaries and subjectivities, and limited indigenous/rural political participation. In response, communities started to dispute these governmentality strategies through political practices that framed new meanings of territory and identity. They use formal political and legal arenas but, above all, their day-to-day practices. This article analyzes forms of power and counter-power in the Quimsacocha páramo mining conflict, through the four different, inter-related ‘arts of government’ (Foucault, 2008) and mutual strategies by promoters and detractors of extractive industry who, in apparent paradox, both appeal to Nature’s Rights. We conclude that using Nature’s Rights to promote mega-mining manifests the limitations of social and environmental rights recognition under neoliberal governance, and the tensions inherent in Nature’s Rights themselves. However, anti-extraction struggles like Quimsacocha’s critically make visible as well as challenge the development model and economic system that is implicit in the debate over Nature’s Rights, inviting us to re-think the socio-natural order and foster more just, equitable alternatives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-79
Early online date18 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • Cultural politics
  • Ecuador
  • Governmentality
  • Mining
  • Rights of nature


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