Coquimbo, Wednesday July 11th 2012
Xstrata Copper, through its El Pachon project, will finance an ambitious conservation project for the Chilean Chinchilla (chinchilla lanigera) through an US$2.5 million investment to improve the Las Chinchillas National Reserve, located in Illapel, 300 kilometres north of Santiago.
El Pachon has been working on the project since 2010 in partnership with the National Forestry Conservation (CONAF, from its initials in Spanish), which administers the National Reserve. The initiative aims to improve infrastructure, support research and conservation work and expand the size of the reserve.
Once hunted indiscriminately for its valuable fur, the Chilean Chinchilla has been protected since 1929. Colonies of chinchillas could be found from Taltal to Talca. However, the world’s last remaining population of Chilean chinchillas is today to be found in the National Reserve.
Xavier Ochoa, General Manager of El Pachon, said: “This project forms part of Xstrata Copper’s commitment to protecting biodiversity in the areas where it operates and develops its projects. To implement this project, a working committee was created where representatives from a series of private and public entities suggested the needs which should be addressed in the proposal to improve infrastructure and support research into the species.”
“There are between 6,000 and 11,000 animals based on the numbers recorded inside the reserve and those found in the surrounding biological area [outside the facility],” said Jorge Silva Cabello, head of CONAF in the Province of Choapa.
The initiative involves three fields of action. Firstly, infrastructure will be improved through the construction of furnished cabins to house teams of scientists, research laboratories, an outdoor classroom, an auditorium as well as improvements and expansion of “Nocturama”. It also provides funding for the expansion of the reserve according to guidelines provided by CONAF. Other measures include improvements to existing paths and the creation of a new one.
Executives from El Pachon presented details of the investment and the scope of the program to the Intendant for the Region of Coquimbo, Sergio Gahona; the Ministerial Regional Secretary for Agriculture, Juan Francisco Garcia; and the Regional Director of CONAF, Eduardo Rodriguez Ramirez.
The Intendant of Coquimbo, Sergio Gahona highlighted that “it is important this investment includes a management plan which guarantees that it is self-sustaining, enabling the reserve to maintain the improvements and development that are undertaken over the long term."
Another of the project’s long-term aims is to transform the Las Chinchillas National Reserve into a unique tourist attraction in the Region of Coquimbo, Chile and the world, increasing the number of visitors to the Province of Choapa and boosting the local economy in Illapel.