Last year, in October 2022, our staff was in Cerro de Pasco again to extend the investigation of the environmental impacts in the whole district of Simon Bolivar, affected by the recovery of mining activities after the lockdown of the last two years of the pandemic.
We collected more than 12 soil samples in important sites to test heavy metals pollution in school gardens, playgrounds, agricultural soils (where local people grow maca, potato, and quinoa), and pasture land for alpaca, lama, sheep, and cows. We also sampled soils in the surrounding of Carhuamayo city, 40 km far from Cerro de Pasco, but not affected by mining activities, useful as background data.
We also collected 19 water samples across the district of Simon Bolivar to check the most important pollution indicators to assess sources of pollution in lakes, rivers, tap waters, and mining wastewater.The water quality investigation shows high contamination levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and nickel, above the background values and national and international standards, in lagoons, rivers, and mining effluents in the Simón Bolívar district.
The levels of metals found in the mining effluents of the Empresa Administradora Cerro SAC (Volcan Compañía Minera SAA), exceed the national limits with alarming percentages (cadmium: 60%; iron: 3400%; zinc 8500%; lead: 20%), contributing to the contamination in the micro-basin of the Ragra river and from there to the San Juan river basin which flows into the natural reserve lagoon of Junin, also known as Chinchaycocha lake.
This study demonstrates the presence of highly toxic metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic, in soil samples from the Simón Bolívar district, in concentrations higher than the background values and national and international quality standards, both in urban soils of the city as in grassland and agricultural soils. On average, lead concentrations in the five recreational soil samples and in the five agricultural and pasture samples collected in Simón Bolívar district exceeded more than20 times Carhuamayo soil concentrations.In addition to their toxicity, many of the metals found in soils are furthermore carcinogenic, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer classification.
Soil contaminated with toxic and carcinogenic substances represents a risk to human health through ingestion and/or dermal contact exposure.
This study has identified a total of 18 violations of national regulations on water and soil protection.
In detail, 11 exceedances of the national limits for water (Supreme Decree No. 004-2017-MINAM) have been detected in the San Juan river basin and 7 in the Tingo river basin. Instead, for soils, 25 violations of the norm that sets the Environmental Quality Standards (ECA) for soil (Supreme Decree No. 011-2017-MINAM) were registered.In the next months, Source International is planning to travel again to Peru to share the new investigation data with local communities and local and regional institutions to maintain high pressure on local stakeholders to put in place some urgent actions and strategies to protect human health and natural ecosystems.
Besides all these efforts and strong actions, a small organization is trying to recover from the hard hit of the pandemic crisis.
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