A tajo abierto

The city of Cerro de Pasco in Peru was founded by Spaniards in 1578, originally as a mining camp for the exploitation of minerals such as silver and zinc. For centuries, it was one of the worlds's most important mining centers and today it has become Pasco RegionĀ“s capital with a population of 70,000.

During the mid-1950s, the Cerro de Pasco Copper Corporation started operating an open pit mine near the city. During the last 50 years, mining company owners have passed from U.S. American holders to state control in the 1970s, and once again to private hands in 1999, when Volcan Mining Company took over the mines formerly owned by the Peruvian State.

Since 1956, the open pit mine has grown to the point that in order for it to continue expanding, entire Cerro de Pasco neighborhoods must be destroyed and people resettled elsewhere. The latest expansion plan will destroy the city's historic center.

This process is not new. Periodically, the open pit mine's expansion has involved the destruction of various parts of Cerro de Pasco, but the difference today is that the projected growth of this mine is no longer affecting peripherical areas. Rather, the city's heart is at stake and people have been suffering for the past few years the dire consequences of these traumatic changes.

Twice a day, there are two explosions -at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. -that are part of Volcan's underground mining activities. The problem is that these produce tremors and are making walls at people's homes crack and fall. And people live in fear. Whether it is that they dred the destruction of their houses or the need to relocate, people face a difficult choice.

Moreover, Cerro de Pasco is one of the world's most polluted cities. It's ground has the murk of heavy metal residue and water is not even safe for drinking. Roughly 50% of the city's children have high blood lead levels according to World Health Organization standards.

On December 2008, the Peruvian Congress approved a law to relocate Cerro de Pasco. Neverthelesss, there is still a long way to go until resettlement's fulfilled. Many people in Cerro de Pasco, despite all of it's problems, do not want to leave their lives and memories there.

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