Families from Cerro de Pasco have spent the last two weeks protesting outside the Health Ministry in Lima over the government’s failure to attend to the health needs of children affected by heavy metal poisoning from the mine owned by Volcán. A parallel protest has been held at the mine itself.
Pollution over nearly 400 years at Cerro de Pasco has led to its inclusion on the list of the world’s ten most polluted places. We have been reporting on the problem for years, most recently two months ago. A report published last November by Source International, an NGO based in Italy, confirms and vividly illustrates the types of contamination and the risks to life, health and the capacity to work.
Children are most at risk. The data quoted are scary. Average concentrations of lead found in the hair of children at Paragsha in 2018 exceeded ten times the average at the control site in Carhuamayo. Cadmium exceeded twice the level, and arsenic three times. In addition, lead proved to be 46 times higher than the Maximum Acceptable Level (MAL) established by the German laboratory MicroTrace Minerals, while arsenic was twice as high. And so on.
The Mesa Técnica en Salud Humana y Ambiental, a group of NGOs involved in issues of human rights in the field of health, has issued a statement in support of the families from Cerro de Pasco. Volcan, which recently some of its assets to Cerro de Pasco Resources, insists that the problems were created by previous owners.
The forum and the families seek a coherent and comprehensive response from the national government.
Protests over official inaction on metal poisoning occur every few months. The forum Plataforma de Afectados por Metales Tóxicos includes no less than ten regions where this is a serious problem: Loreto, Amazonas, Cajamarca, Ancash, Lima (región), Pasco, Moquegua, Cuzco and Puno.