Colombia has provisionally granted special environmental status to 57 areas with a total size of 5,600 square miles that are threatened by mining.
The temporary measure is meant to immediately suspend pending mining concessions and prevent new mining concessions to be granted within these protected areas.
“These are ecosystems of strategic importance that host a great biodiversity, which is why they need to be protected with priority against extractive mining, and used in a sustainable way,” Santos said Wednesday.
The 5,600 square miles of protected reserves are added to 6,200 square miles of territory that were granted protected status in July.
The total area that has been granted protected status in the past two months comprises a territory the size of Belgium, said Santos.
The protected status takes force immediately and will stay in force for two years, a period in which regional territorial authorities “should move forward with the established procedure for the declaration of protected areas on a regional level,” Santos said.
If these regional authorities do what the president hopes, “these newly protected areas will make part of the National System of Protected Areas.”
The president did not immediately reveal which areas will be temporarily be granted protected status.