Peru creates new conservation area to protect glaciers from extractive operations

Quelccaya glacier located in southern Peru. (Image by Edubucher, Wikimedia Commons).

Peru’s National Service of Protected Natural Areas approved this week the creation of the Ausangate Regional Conservation Area (ACR Ausangate in Spanish), whose objective is to protect glaciers and Andean grasslands, as well as emblematic animals such as the condor and the vicuña, from damaging activities.

Spanning three districts and two provinces, the 66,000-hectare conservation area incorporates the Quelccaya glacier, which is considered the second largest tropical glacier in the world. It also includes the Vilcanota River, which provides 50% of Cusco’s drinking water and most of the hydroelectricity for Cusco itself and the adjacent Puno and Apurímac regions.

Mining, whether large-scale or small-scale, is not explicitly banned within the ACR Ausangate but, according to Cusco’s manager for natural resources, María Isabel Cazorla, mining projects are unlikely to get approved in the protected area.

Cazorla told local media that there are already a dozen concessions and mining permit requests to extract lithium close to ACR Ausangate.

However, according to Jean Paul Benavente, Cusco’s governor, most of the concessions and mining permit requests approved between 2018 and 2019 should be revoked to fulfil the mandate of the protected area. Benavente said he will personally ask the Geological, Mining and Metallurgy Institute to go ahead with the reversals.

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