High in Peru’s Andes mountains sits Cerro de Pasco, a 400-year old city which is being devoured from its very center by an expanding open-pit mine.
The two months that I lived in Cerro de Pasco—meeting it’s lead-poisoned children and surveying the wounded land—often felt like I was living in parable. Everyone in the city knew that the dragon was eating it’s own tail, slowly consuming it’s wealth, along with the health of the mine workers, their friends and families.
Neighborhoods near the open-pit are on the verge of being swallowed. Heaps of mine tailings laced with lead are continually deposited next to playgrounds and schools. People walk for hours for access to clean water or dip into tainted industrial pipelines for their washing.
Since the mine is central to the city’s economy, few people want it to be completely shut down. What they want is for the Volcan mining company to conduct their operations responsibly.