1.         City of Potosí (Bolivia (Plurinational State of)) (C 420)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1987

Criteria  (ii)(iv)(vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/420/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1988-2010)
Total amount approved: USD 53,785
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/420/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

USD 10 000, World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS technical mission in 2005 financed by the Spanish Funds-in-Trust for World Heritage

Previous monitoring missions

November 2005: World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS Technical mission; November 2009: WHC meeting.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Potential degradation of the historic site by continued and uncontrolled mining operations in the Cerro Rico Mountain;

b) Instability and risk of collapse of the Cerro Rico;

c) Deficiencies in conservation: special attention required for the restoration and upgrading of structures with residential use and the archaeological industrial heritage;

d) Inefficient enforcement of protective legislation;

e) Environmental impacts on the river which in turn affects the historic fabric and the local population. 

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/420/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011

The Cerro Rico is an integral part of the World Heritage site - City of Potosi. In 1996, the World Heritage Committee noted with satisfaction that the Bolivian Mining Corporation (Corporación Minera de Bolivia – COMIBOL) had included the preservation of geological features and the topography and natural environment of the Cerro Rico as important objectives to be considered regarding future mining activities, given that uncontrolled mining operations over the last 500 years had continuously threatened not only the preservation of the Mountain, but also the lives of over 14 000 miners who work there on a daily basis.

In 2005 a technical mission conducted an analysis of the mountain’s geology and morphology, mining activities, security, pollution, existing environmental conditions and threats to heritage, and provided recommendations for each of the three sectors the mountain is divided into, namely the: summit, middle area and low area; as well as for its surroundings. These included: the termination of mining activities over 4000 metres above sea level and those not related to maintaining the stability of the mountain; the monitoring of all natural phenomena; the elaboration of a Geologic Monitoring Plan focused on geo-mechanics and geo-structural stabilization; the development of a Geo-Environmental Risk Plan; controlled mining activities; the elaboration of a mining work plan; the evaluation of pollution levels; and the implementation of measures to safeguard the human and labour rights of miners and their families.

During a meeting held in November 2009 in Bolivia the Ministry of Cultures agreed to undertake urgent measures to facilitate coordinated actions for the preservation of the mountain. The State Party also expressed the need for the development of a Management Plan for the City of Potosí and the Cerro Rico Mountain. In March 2010, the International Assistance request for the preservation of the Cerro Rico mountain was approved, with the objective of having qualified international experts work on the site to: (a) assess and analyze the specialized geotechnical, structural, geophysical and geodesic studies undertaken at Cerro Rico; (b) participate in the definition of a drilling programme; (c) assess and diagnose the structural stability status of the Cerro Rico; and (d) propose a suitable Action Plan in co-ordination with the Bolivian Government, national experts and stakeholders. It was agreed with the State Party that once the specialized studies were finalized, the Mission and the implementation of the International Assistance request would be undertaken.

As a result of the most recent and critical collapse of the summit (mid February 2011), the State Party requested the urgent implementation of the International assistance request to send a technical mission to the site in May 2011 and to organize an International Expert Meeting to urgently establish recommendations and guidance for the conservation and management of the property and its components. In particular, it is expected that an Action Plan will be developed to assist the State Party in identifying required measures for the preservation of the Mountain, including the definition of regulations for the control of mining activities. The State Party is presently finalizing the Tomography Study of the Cerro Rico and a preliminary report has been sent to ICOMOS for its analysis. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the serious collapse of a portion of the Cerro Rico Mountain, an important component of the property, and particularly the impacts that uncontrolled mining activities are having on the preservation of the mountain, its heritage components, and the potential threat to workers and the City of Potosí. They recommend that the World Heritage Committee point out that the formulation of an Action Plan as well as the identification of management and conservation recommendations is a necessary step in ensuring the conservation of the property. Current efforts could also serve to address pending issues, such as the definition of a larger buffer zone to include all reservoirs to the east and south-east of the City. 

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7B.120

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 20 COM VIID.60/61, adopted at its 20th session (Merida, 1996),

3. Regrets the collapse of a portion of the summit of the Cerro Rico Mountain; and expresses its deep concern regarding the event and the dangerous conditions that exist derived from unregulated and unsafe mining practices at the Cerro Rico Mine;

4. Notes with concern that the recommendations made by the World Heritage Centre/ ICOMOS technical mission in 2005, to improve the security and stability of the property, as well as other conditions necessary to allow for sustainable mining activities, have not been addressed;

5. Requests the State Party to implement, by February 2012, the emergency measures identified by the 2011 World Heritage Centre/ ICOMOS technical mission, in order to protect human lives, to improve working conditions, and to prevent further deterioration of this vulnerable component part of the property, in particular:

a) Finalize the geotechnical study of the Cerro Rico Mountain,

b) Implement measures to ensure the structural stability of the top of the Cerro Rico Mountain,

c) Implement Supreme Decree 27787 and modify article 6 to halt all exploration, extraction and any other interventions under and above ground between altitudes 4400 and 4700m,

d) Prepare a comprehensive topography study and install a monitoring system to assess the stability conditions of the Cerro Rico Mountain at monthly intervals over the next four to six months,

e) Organize a technical expert meeting in early 2012 to evaluate the above studies and monitoring results, and to prepare an Emergency Action Plan for future interventions including rationalisation and planning of the industrial exploitation in the area;

6. Also requests the State Party to initiate the process of developing a participatory Management Plan for the property, and the official submission of the buffer zone;

7. Further requests the State Party to work in co-ordination with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to implement the additional measures identified by the 2011 technical mission undertaken to the property and invites other relevant bodies and funding partners to co-operate with the State Party for the implementation of the conservation measures for the preservation of the Cerro Rico Mountain;

8. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2012, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and on the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012, with a view to considering, in the case of confirmation of ascertained or potential danger to the Outstanding Universal Value, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.