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Esmeraldas refinery, Ecuador


In the city of Esmeraldas oil activities traditionally have had an important weight. In 1977 the first state-owned refinery was built to process newly discovered Amazonian oil. Since the beginning, the refinery has been operating with low environmental standards. It was a typical practice to dump its waste effluents into the rivers. As a consequence of this total environmental carelessness, it has a long record of environmental disasters such as oil leakages and fire incidents. One of these episodes was the SOTE (Oleoducto Transecuatoriano) oil pipes rupture and the subsequent oil leakage in February 1998. It happened few meters from the Esmeraldas refinery which suffered an explosion due to the gases emanating from the former leakage. The fire lasted one day and caused severe ecological and social damage to many inhabitants from the surrounded neighborhoods. As a consequence of this, one of these neighborhoods, La Propicia Uno filed a lawsuit against the refinery for damages not only for the fire but for the cumulative effects of daily contamination.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Esmeraldas refinery, Ecuador
State or province:Esmeraldas
Location of conflict:Esmeraldas
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Oil and gas refining
Specific commodities:
Crude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

thousand barrels of oil were spilled and the fire from the refinery explosion reached several neighborhoods such as La Propicia 1 y 2 and Isla Santa Cruz.

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Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:160000
Start of the conflict:1998
Company names or state enterprises:Petroecuador from Ecuador
Petrocomercial from Ecuador
Petroproduccion from Ecuador
Relevant government actors:Environment Ministry , Education Ministry, The Ministry of Works, Ministry of Social Welfare
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Accion Ecolgica, Fundacion Ecuatoriana del Habitat, Instituto de estudios Ecuatorianos (IEE), Fundacion Salud, Ambiente y Desarrollo (FUNSAD), Fundacion Salamandra, Fundacion Mara Luisa Gmez de la Torre, Fundacion Natura
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Neighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Street protest/marches
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Fires, Soil contamination, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:In 2002 the Ecuadors Supreme Court ruled in Propicia Unos favor. The Court granted the neighborhood US$ 11 million to be used for community projects. Furthermore, it exhorted that within six months Petroecuador begin cleaning up Esmeraldas rivers and air. In 2004 infrastructure works started in La Propicia Uno, not without internal and external problems regarding priority of projects and money auditing. However, until now, Petroecuador has allocated less than half of the whole budget concerned with these social projects. Furthermore, this company has been reluctant to rectify the environmental damage and to improve its technology standards.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Environment Law

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Gordillo Granda, Danilo Mauricio. 2008. El conflicto socioambiental de la Propicia, visto con una mirada de gnero. Tesis de maestra. Maestra en Ciencias Sociales con mencin en Estudios Socioambientales. Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO).

Meta information
Contributor:Sara Latorre
Last update08/04/2014
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