At least five dead, three injured in landslide at Ecuador illegal mine

QUITO, Nov 19 (Reuters) - At least five people died and three were injured in a landslide caused by excavation work at an illegal mine in Ecuador, an official said on Thursday.

The dead included four women who were among at least 20 people working in the mine at the time, in the municipality of San Lorenzo, near the country’s northern border with Colombia, according to Rommel Salazar, the director of the country’s Risk Management Service.

A 12-year-old child also died.

Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno has sought to crack down on illegal mining in the Andean country, whose gold and copper reserves remain largely unexploited by formal miners, arguing the practice presents environmental and safety risks and complicates the country’s efforts to attract mining investment.

The government’s Energy Regulation and Control Agency said there is a court order barring all mining in San Lorenzo, meaning any extraction activity ocurring there would be considered illegal.

Salazar said the incident had damaged 10 hectares (25 acres) of land, and a river cutting through the area.

“Illegal mining does so much damage to the environment, and is unsafe for the people who unfortunately seek work in these places,” he said. (Reporting by Alexandra Valencia Writing by Luc Cohen)