Mine tunnel Ecuador

From gold mining to goldsmithing

Development projects seek to generate entrepreneurship and sustainable livelihoods in Ecuador



  • Carolina Moncayo
    Communication Specialist, Ecuador's National Program for the Environmental Sound Management and Live Cycle Management of Chemical Substances (planetGOLD Ecuador)


The sounds of the great machines indicate the beginning of a new day. The mills crushing the ore produce the characteristic cracking sound of the area. At the beginning of March, Karla travelled to Loja so that her 3 children could enjoy 15 days with their grandparents, a common ritual at the beginning of the school vacations.

When Karla returned to her home in Portovelo alone, leaving her children at her parents’ home, everything was paralyzed from one day to the next, and she was separated from her family, including her children, indefinitely. Karla, who has always lived in the mining sector, says it was the silence and distance that most distressed her during the quarantine in Ecuador in response to the health emergency caused by COVID 19.

Karla is an accountant in a mineral processing plant and president of the Association of Artisan Goldsmithing Production (ASORF in Spanish), formed by 9 women and 4 men. Although she has a permanent job and a stable salary, she recognizes that the impact on the sector after the quarantine is very significant, not only in terms of productivity, but also because of the deterioration in the machinery due to the lack of use.


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Mining is the main economic activity in the canton and generates most of the family income. However, for two years Karla and her association have dreamed of promoting the use of the materials extracted in the area, through a goldsmithing workshop that would generate another economic activity for the women linked to APROPLASMIN, the implementing partner of the proposal. She and her association believe that goldsmithing can provide a way to transmit their culture and, in the future, promote tourism.

In this context and as a response to the emergency, with the intention of encouraging decent conditions for families involved in an economic activity linked to mining, the Ministry of Environment and Water (MAAE in Spanish), in coordination with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources (MERNNR in Spanish), with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and through the National Program for the Environmentally Sound Management of Chemicals in their Life Cycle (a planetGOLD partner project), will provide $50,000 for the implementation of a goldsmithing workshop.


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Designed by master1305 / Freepik — Photo by Ronja Flucke on Unsplash


With the funding, over the next 12 months a training plan will be carried out for the association as well as the generation of new commercial contacts and the promotion and identification of good practices that will enhance this activity.

Mario Rodas, UNDP Environment and Energy Program Officer, explained that this support will stimulate new market opportunities and reduce the use of hazardous chemicals associated with the sector. In addition, he mentioned that thanks to an alliance with the Decentralized Autonomous Government of El Oro province, the accompaniment, implementation and technical support to the venture will be guaranteed.

The proposal seeks to promote women’s leadership and contribute to the progressive transition towards other economic activities as an alternative to artisanal mining, encouraging the generation of new spaces that allow them to be incorporated into the decision-making process in their community. Karla is very excited about the project. She says that she never imagined that the overwhelming silence would become an opportunity for her and her association to incorporate new, sweeter sounds and opportunities into their locale.

With a smile on her face, she says: “With the quality of the mineral in this area and the skills of our people, we can motivate more people to visit us and learn about our greatest treasure, which is our culture.”


This article was originally published on July 24, 2020 by UNDP Ecuador

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