Ecuador to appeal Amazon oil exploration ruling

After two weeks of deliberations, a criminal court in Puyo, central Ecuador, on Friday accepted a Waorani bid for court protection in Pastaza province to stop an oil bidding process after the government moved to open up around 180,000 hectares for exploration (AFP Photo/Rodrigo BUENDIA)

Quito (AFP) - The Ecuadoran government announced Saturday it will appeal a ruling won by the country's Waorani indigenous tribe that blocks oil companies' entry onto ancestral Amazonian lands for exploration activities.

The Ministry of Energy and Non-renewable Natural Resources said in a statement it "will appeal the decision, given that although documents and videos were presented and compliance with all standards was demonstrated, these were not taken into account."

After two weeks of deliberations, a criminal court in Puyo, central Ecuador, on Friday accepted a Waorani bid for court protection in Pastaza province to stop an oil bidding process after the government moved to open up around 180,000 hectares for exploration.

The lands are protected under Ecuador's constitution that establishes the "inalienable, unseizable and indivisible" rights of indigenous people "to maintain possession of their ancestral lands and obtain their free adjudication."

Crucially, however, the wealth in the subsoil is owned by the state.

The constitution also enshrines the need for prior consultation on any plans to exploit the underground resources, given the probable environmental and cultural impacts on tribal communities.

The state reached an agreement with the Waorani over oil exploration in 2012, but the tribe's leaders said they were duped.

The judges ordered the government to conduct a new consultation, applying standards set by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in San Jose.