During the final virtual evaluation workshop of the Tropical Andes Hotspot Program (2015-2020), which took place on January 28th, with the participation of several organizations from Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano (Ecuador), Profonanpe (Peru) and Patrimonio Natural (Colombia), the European Union and the French Alliance for Development, special recognition was given to outstanding projects in each of the six strategic lines supported by CEPF. One of these was awarded to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) for the results and impacts achieved with the project: "Integrating best practices in mining operations in the Madidi-Pilón Lajas-Apolobamba-Cotapata conservation corridor".
WCS worked on the implementation of best mining practices (technical, social and environmental) in three pilot mining cooperatives: Águilas de Oro and Rayo Rojo (Apolobamba) and Jesús del Gran Poder (Cotapata), which became field schools for training in responsible mining, promoting miner-to-miner training. A total of 197 mining operators and 110 park rangers from the Apolobamba, Madidi, Pilón Lajas and Cotapata national protected areas were trained. These activities were aimed at reducing the impacts of gold mining and strengthening the technical capacities of protected area personnel. Also noteworthy was the consolidation of the Interinstitutional Working Group on Responsible Gold (GIT-OR), an alliance of 15 civil society and academic institutions committed to working to reduce the impacts of gold mining activities through the application of the responsible mining approach. On the other hand, WCS carried out close to 30 training events in which more than 1100 people participated, including mining operators, park rangers, management committee members and indigenous leaders, contributing to the strengthening of Integral Monitoring Programs and the implementation of Environmental Action Plans in the Madidi, Pilón Lajas, Apolobamba and Cotapata protected areas.
In the words of Oscar Loayza, Subdirector of the Greater Madidi Landscape Conservation Program and leader of the winning project: "The challenge was great, the mining issue is complex and very sensitive in Bolivia because of its presence within protected areas and indigenous territories" -which are home to a significant part of Bolivia's biodiversity-. "The main effort was focused on reducing the impact of mining and working with a sense of teamwork and collaboration at different levels."
An award was also presented to the T'simane Mosetene Regional Council (CRTM-Pilón Lajas), on behalf of its president Eloy Sarabia Vía, for their achievements in the development of the Management Plan and Life Plan for the Pilón Lajas Biosphere Reserve and Indigenous Territory, which strengthens its management as a protected area (under the responsibility of SERNAP) and as an indigenous territory (legal property of the T'simane, Mosetene and Tacana peoples represented by the CRTM). The CRTM's leadership was key in terms of organizing the work team to update the plan, organizing events with the participation of Pilón Lajas' stakeholders, and coordinating and approving the plan. WCS provided technically support to the CRTM team in this process.