Located on the flanks of the Andes at approximately 600 meters in elevation, Sinangoe encompasses a distinctive climate and geology, fostering unique biological communities where plant and animal communities from the lowland forests connect with Andean flora and fauna. Though they obtained legal title as a community in 1994, it wasn't until 2002 that Cofán came to an agreement with the Ministry of Environment for rights to use over 250,000 hectares of their ancestral territories within the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve.
In 2022, the Constitutional (Supreme) Court of Ecuador, which is the country's most influential judicial body, ruled that Indigenous communities have the ultimate authority to make decisions regarding oil, mining, and other extractive operations that impact their territories. This is the first time that such a recognition has been made, and it establishes one of the world's most potent legal precedents on the universally recognized right of Indigenous peoples to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent. This legal tool is critical for the survival of Indigenous communities and the preservation of vast expanses of forests and highly diverse ecosystems.
The Court's decision arose from a lawsuit filed by the Cofán community of Sinangoe in 2018, which resulted in the nullification of 52 gold-mining concessions granted by the government. Sinangoe hosted the Court's first-ever hearing in Indigenous territory in the Amazon on November 15, 2021. The judgment signifies that Ecuador's highest court supports the right of all Indigenous peoples to make final decisions regarding extractive projects that might impact more than 23 million acres of Indigenous lands and forests across the country.