The rights of nature against large-scale mining in Ecuador: An analysis of resistance movements and constitutional lawsuits

The introduction of the Rights of Nature (RoN) into the Ecuadorian Constitution in 2008 generated much hope amongst environmental movements. Yet, the belief that these rights would ‘quasi automatically’ lead to social change soon diminished when in 2009 the government declared industrial mining a new strategic economic sector.
In recent years, resistance movements against mining have emerged. Part of these movements’ resistance strategy has been to file constitutional lawsuits against mining projects. By dealing with two specific cases from a legal anthropological perspective, I explore the reasons behind the mobilisation of the RoN in these lawsuits, the hopes attached to this new set of rights, the disappointments such legal actions have generated, as well as the contestations over the meaning of the RoN in court. My contribution is based on five months of ethnographic fieldwork in court rooms as well as amongst lawyers, activists, NGOs, and people from affected communities.