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Alhué, provincia de Melipilla, RM.

Alhué, Región Metropolitana

Alhué in mapudungún means “place of spirits”. This remote place is a community in the Metropolitan Region that is part of the province of Melipilla, which is nestled  in the Cordillera de la Costa, in Cordon de Cantillana (Priority Biodiversity Conservation Site of the Metropolitan Region). There lies the town of El Asiento, which has no more than 400 inhabitants, mostly farmers.

Hotspot biodiversity

The sector of Altos de Cantillana corresponds to one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots of the world, which means that they are ecosystems with a high level of biodiversity, a high number of endemic species (exclusive of the central zone of Chile), and species with a high level of risk of being a driven to extinction by human development and encroachment.

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Bosque de Nothofagusmacrocarpa (Nothofagaceae, roble); Foto: Fernanda Romero

The diversity of ecosystems is determined by different environmental variables that characterize an area, such as altitude, water bodies, slopes and slope exposure, which contribute to the great diversity of species of flora and fauna present.

Of note are the oak forests and the high Andean flora communities that develop on the highest peaks and slopes of the cordon, which have survived since the last glaciation, which ended some 11,000 to 18,000 years ago.

Surprisingly, it is still possible to observe the Aculeo basin with its original vegetation of sclerophyllous forests, thanks to the fact that it is not an important timber source, and it contains soils of low value for human use, an unusual situation to find in an area located a few kilometers from Santiago.

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Mapa Región Alhue.

The mining threat

Historically, Alhué has been an area of mineral extraction, of both gold, silver and also copper. In the town of El Asiento, a few kilometers from the village of Alhué, Minera Florida S.A., has been operating since 1988 and is engaged in the extraction and processing of polymetallic minerals (gold, silver and zinc).

This mining activity has brought with it a series of negative externalities, both for the surrounding population and for the rich biodiversity of the area. The Alhué estuary is practically dry, and the operation has brought with it health problems in the town of El Asiento, due in particular to air pollution, and the project owner has consistently failed to comply with measures that seek to mitigate the air pollution caused by the mining.

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