The District of Cañaris is located in the northern Andes. It is mountainous terrain with high ridges and deep valleys, however the area does not have the rugged snow-capped mountain peaks that occur farther south in the Andes. The area is characterized by wet grasslands in the higher altitudes, cloud forests in the middle altitudes, and cultivated land in the lower altitudes. In the area immediate surrounding Cañariaco Norte, it is predominantly forests and grasslands.
It can be difficult to travel in this region due to the limited road access and poor condition of many of the roads. Access to many villages is provided only by foot-paths, and local travel for most residents is by walking, riding horses, or taking buses that serve some of the road accessible villages.
In the mid to lower elevations where geo-climatic conditions support agriculture, the majority of the local population is engaged in subsistence farming on small plots adjacent to their homes. Families typically grow vegetables and have a small number of chickens and pigs, with some families also having some cattle. Cattle are often taken to the high grass covered ridges for grazing. A large number of families cultivate coffee beans where the conditions are favourable. The potential for other land uses in this area are limited, and the infrastructure required to support tourism does not exist.
The activities currently underway by Alta Copper at the Cañariaco project do not interfere or impact with any of the current agricultural activities in the District, as the Cañariaco Norte project is located in an area that is not favourable for agriculture and has therefore not been historically used for farming of any kind. The employment of local residents at Cañariaco Norte provides an additional source of income for many families, income that can be realized by working close to their own home and community. Longer term, should the development of an operating mine at Cañariaco Norte proceed, it would provide significant employment and spin off business opportunities for residents and families in the area, with land use activities that would not impact the existing agricultural base.