Saturday, May 19, 2018

Short notes about geotourism, geo-resources, and paleontology in Paraguay to frame possible geoethical problems

by Moisés Alejandro Gadea Villalba
Moisés Alejandro Gadea Villalba

IAPG-Paraguay coordinator


Disclaimer: the views expressed in this paper solemnly engage the author

Picture above:
Cerro Verá – A hill of Paleozoic sandstones

Paraguay is located in the heart of South America, surrounded by Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia, sharing with them the basins of the eastern Chaco and the western Parana
The first studies of its geology were carried out in the middle of the XX Century, and there are still a lot of geological features to be explored.

Cerro Akangue is formed by
Cretacic eolian sandstones eroded after
a regional uplifting
Many of those features constitute the geoheritage of Paraguay, and there is a great potential to develop geotourism activities, which in many countries has been a profitable economic resource.
Geotourism is a relative recent field in geology, mixing geological aspects with touristic concepts, although in a certain sense it has been practiced for centuries all over the world.
There are very few publications on geotourism in Paraguay so far. Actually, on average, geotourism is a quite unknown field in my country. 
There are extinct volcanoes, geological forms in different environments showing peculiar features, fossils, caves in limestones, old mining "relicts", remarkable rocks and minerals, tectonic elements, scenic hills, marine structures shaped millions of years ago, paleo-deserts, natural arcs, which make geotourism a possible and promising economic and scientific activity in Paraguay.
A document to propose Cerro Koĩ and Chororĩ area (in which polygonal jointings in sandstones are outcropping and currently preserved by law) as UNESCO geopark is in progress.
There are national bodies which may support geotourism in Paraguay. But we need to consider an adeguate framework of laws to promote the preservation and sustainable development of natural outstanding geosites.

Polygonal jointing in sandstones
in Cerro Koĩ and Chororĩ (Aregua, near Asunción)

A recent paper (in Spanish) has been released few months ago on geotourism opportunities in Paraguay ( In this paper 106 potential geosites are listed, and this inventory will be surely updated according to new discoveries and proposals.

Mining activities and natural resources

Geological deposits from Archean to Holocen have been mapped in Paraguay, some of them containing important georesources: gold, uranium, titanium, iron, cupper, evaporitic minerals, even diamonds were recently reported. Currently, mining activities are scarce, while country's economy is mainly based on cattle breeding and agriculture.
In its early stages from the foundation, Paraguay had an iron foundry (among the first ones in South America), not far from its capital city, Asunción, where instruments for shipyards and agricultural purposes were made. Iron was obtained from local rocks. When the War of the Triple Alliance broke out (fought from 1864 to 1870), the main products of the foundry became fire guns and gunpowder (the latter was obtained from sulfurs of Silurian malachites). Finally, this industrial facility was destroyed in 1869 during the war and nowadays it is a museum called La Rosada (see image). It can be considered a "relict" of past mining activities.

La Rosada, in Ybycui: The first mining facility
to obtain iron established in 1850´s
and destroyed during the war time
from 1864 to 1870
Although rocks from numerous quarries are extracted to be used for civil buildings or roads, gold mining is currently the most important activity in Guairá department. The gold is present in Cretacic dolerite dykes that cuts younger sedimentary rocks. Many people in the area get profits from this georesource.
In the 70´s, the Anschutz Corporation came in Paraguay to search for the presence of uranium deposits, which were found. Other companies are requesting permissions to search for minerals in the country. Those requests will surely increase in the future, due to also to a massive media campaign on what Paraguay can offer to the world in terms of mineral resources.

Starfish fossil in Early Silurian shales
"Paraguay is not a country with tradition in mining, but it is known for its water resources" claimed a foreign geologist who not long ago visited my country. This affirmation is true, Paraguay has plenty of fresh water resources (like the Parana, Paraguay, Pilcomayo rivers), which confer it the appellative of the "mesopothamic region" of South America. And also groundwater is a widespread resource used in vast areas of the country.
All minerals, oil and water resources belongs legally to the country. In order to extract and use them as georesources, permissions to the government must be asked for, taking into account environmental prescriptions and certifications.

Trilobites and seashells
from Early Silurian in shales
(photo by Ron Halliday)

Fossils from different epochs are present: Ediacarian stromatoliths (among the oldest living traces found on our planet), Permian extinct flora and petrified woods, Pleistocenic mammals. Fossils in Paraguay are protected by law. It is forbidden the extraction from the outcrops in which they are found, to trade them.
The palaeontological geoheritage in Paraguay is huge, and there is a lot of work to do in the future on it.
One of the last remarkable finding has been the long and maze-like pleistocenic tunnels digged by extinct giant armadillos. It is not known their distribution yet and they are being studied. Papers about this finding are going to be published soon.

Paleo-tunnels in lateritic soils
There is a great expectancy and optimism on new paleontological discoveries in Paraguay, especially related to Mesozoic reptiles, which is believed are "hidden" in Paraguayan rocks and hopefully will be found after in-depth studies and field work.

IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics