WCS Argentina

Extraction of Minerals and Hydrocarbons

The Andean Patagonia Steppe Landscape has historically produced approximately 50% of Argentina’s oil and gas, and contains the largest potassium mine and shale gas reserves in South America. Extraction of these shale gas reserves by “fracking” is already beginning in the Vaca Muerta deposit, and these unconventional petroleum sources will result in the landscape contributing even more than 50% of the country’s oil and gas in coming years. 

More than 25,000 miles of exploration trails were built in recent decades to support the oil industry, opening previously inaccessible areas to poachers. In the vicinity of the Auca Mahuida reserve, this has resulted in a > 90% reduction in the number of guanacos since 1982. Extractive activities also destroy rocky cliffs and outcrops occupied by mountain vizcachas, the principal prey of the Andean cat, and nearby wet meadows that are their preferred grazing areas.  Approval and regulation of large oil and mining projects is the responsibility of local government agencies.

Activities

Building Capacity in Government Agencies

From 2006-9 we carried out a program to build capacity within government agencies for evaluating and addressing the impacts of extractive companies within and beyond the landscape with support from the World Bank environmental fund (GEF). We trained personnel from these agencies to evaluate the potential impacts of extractive industries on wildlife and their habitats, monitor those impacts, and propose and help implement mitigation and compensation measures, and developed training manuals and materials that were distributed to the agencies.  We believe this will have a long-term impact on conservation in the region, by strengthening government regulatory agencies’ capacities to address conservation problems presented by extractive industries.

Closing of Oil Trails

WCS has collaborated with the Neuquén Dept. of Protected Areas to identify and prioritize oil trails for closing to protect wildlife and habitats, and to supervise and monitor the effects of those closings.  During 2006, 376 oil trails were closed by the YPF Oil Company, reducing access by poachers to an area of 330,000 hectares in the Auca Mahuida vicinity.  Through monitoring by WCS and the Dept. of Protected Areas, 94 additional oil trails that needed to be repaired or closed were identified, and these were closed in 2010, reducing poacher access to an additional 150,000 hectares.  WCS monitoring with magnetic traffic sensors indicates significantly fewer vehicles used oil trails that had been effectively closed compared to those that had not been closed. 

We hypothesize that these closings of oil trails will result in a recovery of wildlife populations released from the pressure of heavy hunting.  Oil companies will benefit from keeping poachers out of their areas of activity and improvements in their public image.  Rural people will also benefit because wildlife poachers will have fewer opportunities to kill and steal their livestock.

Contact

WCS Argentina
Amenabar 1595 piso 2 oficina 19, C1426AKC CABA

Key Staff

Lara Heidel
Coordinator of Conservation in Areas with Extractive Activities
Martin Funes
Director of Andean Patagonian Steppe Landscape
All Extraction of Minerals and Hydrocarbons Staff >>

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