Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia court bans mining in moorlands

Chingaza National park Image copyright Natalio Cosoy
Image caption The court banned mining in the paramos (moorlands)

Colombia's constitutional court has banned mining in the country's moorlands, also known as "paramos".

It argued that mining for gold and oil in the fragile ecosystem could cause irreversible damage.

The court overturned a previous ruling that allowed mining companies which already held licenses to continue operating in the moorlands until their licenses ran out.

Officials said the court's decision would void about 350 mining licenses.

The "paramos" are mainly found between an altitude of 3,000m (9,850ft) and 5,000m.

Image copyright Natalio Cosoy
Image caption The paramos are key to supplying water to Colombia's cities

Covered by grass and shrubs, they act like vast sponges, storing water in the rainy season and releasing it in the dry season.

Their conservation is considered key to guaranteeing the water supply for Colombian cities such as the capital, Bogota.

Environmental activists welcomed the ruling.

Congressman Alirio Uribe Munoz, who was among a group of politicians who brought the case before the constitutional court, said it meant "life first, business later".

The court said that under no circumstance should mining or oil exploration be allowed in these areas.

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