By Hugo Sosa Santiago
The city of Cerro de Pasco is considered one of the 16 most critical cities in the country, for which it is urgent to assume responsibilities and not continue in the indifference and passive behavior shown by the local government authorities.
Responsible for the Contamination of Cerro de Pasco
A reflection on the pollution in Cerro de Pasco **
These are those responsible for the environmental damage in Cerro de Pasco:
Environmental Management and Adaptation Programs (PAMAS) are not fulfilled because there is no government supervision or citizen participation
Mining investments have not meant progress or social development, but they have increased poverty and all kinds of social ills
NdeR.- Why has the mining wealth of Cerro de Pasco not produced development of the region and social and human progress of its inhabitants? Hugo Sosa Santiago, a researcher at the Labor Center in Cerro de Pasco, believes that in the 475 years of mining activity in this province, mining companies have acted with their backs to reality, protected by a profound insensitivity of state institutions and local governments .
They never controlled respect for the environment or made efforts so that the millionaire profits of the companies also meant the progress of the region.
Since mining was defined as an economic activity, it has become a source of resources for its development; however, since the middle of the last century, humanity has begun to think seriously about the social, environmental and health costs generated by the systems of exploitation and transformation of non-renewable mining resources, not only by destroying the land, but especially by the large amount of wastewater, tailings, toxic gases, dust, acidic waters and others that consequently destroy the planet's natural resources, adding to this the deterioration of the health and emotional and social instability of the populations living in the mining work environment.
The history of the city of Cerro de Pasco is not alien to the situation described, since 1630 when Santiago Huaricapcha made known the existence of an Argentine wealth in this area, passing through the arrival in 1900 of the North American company Cerro de Pasco Cooper Corporation, which in a clear display of abuse and arrogance not only exploited mining resources, but also water and livestock. In 1976 it was nationalized and became the Empresa Minera del Centro (CENTROMIN PERU), then classified as one of the main mining production companies in Latin America, until it was transferred, through a dubious privatization process, to the private company Volcan Cia Mining.
In the districts of Chaupimarca, Yanacancha, Simón Bolívar, Tinyahuarco, Huayllay and Yarusyacán, twelve mining companies and seven mineral benefit plants are currently operating, all of which produce a great diversity of polluting agents that are important sources of direct and indirect impacts for the environment and human life of Cerro de Pasco and the peripheral areas where these activities take place.
To the irregular and disorderly growth of Cerro de Pasco and its district capitals, we must add the lack of sufficient and adequate basic services (water, sewage), and sanitation and cleaning services are not assumed as a priority by local and community authorities .
In the study carried out by CISEPA-PUCP in 1996, it is mentioned that this entire process of mining settlement in Cerro de Pasco has generated profound negative distortions in the socio-cultural identity of the population, loss of historical memory, destruction of symbols and of ancestral values; To which we would complement the fact that the population, as a result of these impacts, assumes it as something natural and daily, and part of their life, to live with pollution.
While it is true that mining as an economic activity is significant for the country, unfortunately it is not socially. At all times, the activity of the mining worker has developed in an environment marked by occupational diseases, deterioration of social relationships, loss of identity, increase in adolescent mothers or single mothers, appearance of bars, canteens and discos as a result of the presence of “the contractors” of foreign people, who tend to emigrate to other places at the end of their working period.
Open pit occupies 50% of the capital
Air pollution and lead in the blood of the inhabitants are the chronic problems of Cerro de Pasco
The urban areas of the districts of Simón Bolívar, Yanacancha and the entire district of Chaupimarca are directly affected by the processes of mining environmental pollution, observing the following problems:
- Permanence of conflicts over land use: the open pit occupies 50% of the polygon of the city, the eviction of settlers and residents, destruction of houses, slums, subsidence, modification of the landscape, destruction of streets and infrastructure.
- Persistence of the contamination of the water resource with tailings, clearings, solid and liquid waste and acidic waters, which among other aspects, results in the destruction of flora and fauna. Additionally, there is a deficit in the supply of water for human consumption, because the supply is shared with the mining company.
- Air pollution has not been mitigated, and it is a direct source of diseases in the population, particularly in children under five years of age, to which must be added the pollution produced by tailings fields, garbage dumps, land clearing open air, acid rain, and stationary and mobile polluted water sources.
- The presence of lead in blood, in values that exceed the permissible limits established by the World Health Organization (10ug / dl), especially in children under the age of twelve in areas such as Paragsha, Champamarca and Huayllay.
- The deficit of housing and provision of services is maintained, with minimal green areas and few recreation areas.
Companies comply with PAMAS only by obligation, not by conviction
The city of Cerro de Pasco is considered one of the 16 most critical cities in the country (Evaluation of the Urban Environmental Situation of the Mining City of Cerro de Pasco ”, LABOR, 2003 pp10), against which it is urgent to assume responsibilities and not continue in the indifference and passive behavior shown by the following protagonists:
- The authorities of local governments, both provincial and district, as well as officials representing the ministries of Education, Agriculture, Energy and Mines and others, do not consider the environmental issue as a priority, which causes the population (children and adults) also do not value natural resources or their preservation.
- In the same way, we dare to indicate that regional, local and communal authorities, likewise, feel oblivious to the problem of contamination in their localities, but at the same time we also contribute with our passivity and position of simple observers.
- Those responsible for existing mining companies in the region, protected by an inadequate and partial legal framework, are not moved by the serious environmental and social impacts they cause and, unfortunately, they have never taken the initiative to overcome and repair the damage caused to the natural resources belonging to peasant communities.
Mining companies currently only limit themselves to complying “by obligation” with their Environmental Adaptation and Management Programs (PAMA), without having their own environmental initiatives or business policies, where affected social organizations and local authorities participate equally. and the population.
- Little or no dissemination of the regulations in force, this is a deficiency observed throughout the country. The bulk of the population at the national level receives little information from the mass media, to which is added the lack of initiative of the inhabitants to access that information, for which it is recommended that environmental education be imparted in all areas educational levels permanently and at the national level.
Air pollution, tailings and lead in the blood hit Cerro de Pasco
On the other hand, in recent years, some institutions such as the LABOR Popular Culture Center, have been working on priority processes to raise awareness of environmental problems and make evident the state of acute pollution that affects our towns.
Currently, the work consists of supporting participatory processes, encouraging the population to generate proposals to identify pollution, develop their organizational capacities to demand their rights, promote other economic activities and preserve natural resources.
In the first year of municipal government, the Pasco Provincial Commune has summoned the officials of the surrounding mining companies to work meetings, but unfortunately, after four sessions there were no positive or participatory results.
On the contrary, the conflicts between the companies and the communities have worsened, an example of this is what happens between the urban community of Ayapoto and Volcan Cia. Minera or the event between the peasant communities of Lalaquia and Ticlacayán and the Atacocha company. Before which, the authorities do not have any leading role to favor a solution in favor of the communities.
Environmental pollution is general. The city of Cerro de Pasco, the areas of Yanacancha, Paragsha, Ayapoto and Champamarca are contaminated by the presence of mining waste and lead in blood; Quiulacocha, the basins of the San Juan and Huallaga rivers affected by tailings, while the micro-basin of the Tingo River is a corpse. Its totally polluted waters do not harbor any kind of life.
It's time to come together and fight the lead, arsenic, and toxic gas pollution that chronically affects present and future generations. It is time to fight for the recovery of our natural resources, and make Pasco a decent and healthy place to live. IT IS A PRIORITY TASK. www.EcoPortal.net
* Head of the Environment and Regional Development Area of the LABOR Center / Headlines and journalistic subtitles are from the Editorial Office of LA RAZON.
** Published in LA RAZON newspaper on Monday, July 4, 2005