The issue of mining titles being issued by the government in environmentally protected areas first came to my attention through an article in La Silla Vacía, an online Colombian political news publication. These areas are called páramos, an ecosystem unique to high-altitude tropical areas that are important for the fact that they are sources of fresh water. We discussed the article and accompanying maps at a cartography discussion group that I lead. The article delves into a pertinent geographic discussion: what are the effects of improving the scale of data? Up until a couple of years ago, the official government data on páramos only mapped them at a scale of 1:250,000. After the current government of Juan Manuel Santos declared it illegal to perform any kind of mining in these areas, it decided to pay to improve the quality of the maps, first to a scale of 1:100,000 and eventually to 1:25,000. In the article, La Silla Vacía points out that, due to the increased level of detail in the maps, the borders of areas considered to be páramos increased significantly. This means that mining titles that previously were not considered to be in protected areas now are. Fascinating, right?
But La Silla Vacía’s map did not answer a few pertinent questions: Where exactly are these areas of overlap? Which páramos are affected? Where are all of the mining titles in the country compared to páramo areas? So I created my own map to answer these questions.