Colombia’s constitutional court has banned all mining licences that have been granted to companies planning to carry out mine activities in the Paramo region.

The BBC reported the court ruling saying that mining in this region in order to extract gold and oil will damage the fragile ecosystem and such activities should not be allowed.

Environment and Sustainable Development Minister Gabriel Vallejo told EFE: "We receive this decision with the utmost respect and will obviously abide by it."

According to officials, the decision announced by the court would see cancellation of around 350 mining licences.

"The decision announced by the court would see cancellation of around 350 mining licences."

Found between an altitude of 3,000m and 5,000m, the Paramos are considered to be Colombia’s important alpine ecosystems and are covered by grass and shrubs.

They act similar to vast sponges, and during rainy season they store water. They later release the water in the dry season.

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Conservation of Paramos plays a key role as these high-altitude regions are major source of the water consumed by cities such as Bogota in Colombia, the court said.

Colombia’s National Development Plan had already prohibited the granting of new mining licences in Paramos.

The Paramo is the ecosystem of the regions above the continuous forest line, yet below the permanent snowline and is a neotropical high mountain biome with a vegetation that is composed primarily of giant rosette plants, shrubs and grasses.

Image: Paramo in Colombia. Photo: courtesy of Friedrich Kircher.