Cerro de Pasco is the highest city in the world at almost 4,400 meters high. Over the years the city has developed around the open-cast mine called “El Tajo” (the Cut), a 2 km long crater and over 900 meters deep from which lead, copper, zinc, gold and silver were extracted. The extraction of minerals is accompanied by the emission of heavy metals that contaminate the water and the surrounding soil, causing a strong impact on the health of the population.
Hair analysis performed by Source International have shown that the average concentration of lead in the hair of children of Cerro de Pasco is 36 times higher than the international reference standards and that due to the high concentration of heavy metals in the body 100% of the population should be hospitalized urgently.
In the worst hit, Simon Bolivar, deaths due to congenital childhood malformations reach a threshold of 33% unlike the national level of less than 1%. The most surprising data are those of an economic nature. Over the years, the mine has passed property a dozen times until in 2017 it was bought by the Swiss giant Glencore. Although the mine is worth more than $ 140 million a year, the city of Cerro de Pasco is among the poorest in Peru: GDP is 16% lower than the national one, while the Human Development Index is below 27 %. And the indices of violence, alcoholism and prostitution are among the highest in the country. Over the years, local organizations have tried to improve the lives of the inhabitants of Cerro by receiving threats and intimidation, and various activists have been murdered.
Today the panorama of Cerro de Pasco is a continuous alternation of crumbling buildings and mountains of waste rocks from which toxic powders rise and from which acid waters emerge. The only solution that has been proposed to date by the Peruvian government is a forced displacement of 70,000 inhabitants in another area of the Pasco region.