Tajo - PhMuseum

Tajo

Stefano Sbrulli

2017 - 2019

Peru is one of the countries with the highest ratio of territory gave in concession to extractive industries. More than 15% of the territory is in concession to mining companies, mostly foreigner. For geological reasons the majority of those concessions are in the Andean area, over 3000 meters on the sea level.

An emblematic case is the province of Pasco, where 52,9% of the territory has been given in concession to mining companies. The city of Cerro de Pasco is the fulcrum of mining activity in the region.

Cerro de Pasco has more then 70.000 inhabitants and it grew around an enormous open pit called El Tajo. A crater two kilometers long and wide and almost one km deep. The history of the city developed hand by hand with the development of El Tajo. More the crater grew and more the town grew and more the town grew more the crater swallowed pieces of it. The first city square, the first church, the first hospital. All swallowed and sacrificed to the open pit mine that, during the years, has produced tons of copper, lead, zinc, gold and silver.

Despite millions of dollars generated by over 400 years of mining exploitation, today Cerro de Pasco is one of the poorest cities in Peru. The health system is almost inexistent, the educational system is close to the collapse and the population does not receive any help from the government. The inhabitant of Cerro de Pasco live in a situation of social and economic exclusions without any possibility to escape a live at the shadow of El Tajo. Moreover, the pollution caused by 60 years of industrial extraction made Cerro de Pasco one of the most polluted places on earth. If international standards were applied, 100% of the population would urgently hospitalized for the presence of heavy metals in their bodies.

33% of the infant mortality is due to congenital malformations and the incidence of cancer is four time the national average.

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  • A view on Chaupamarca neighborhood and El Tajo. Mining began to intensify in the 20th century. The more El Tajo widened, the more the inhabited center was dismantled and new houses were built in the outskirts of the city.
    What used to be a small mining village is now the capital of Pasco province. Today distance between the houses and the extraction site is almost non-existent.

  • José Brian (9) shows clear symptoms of lead intoxication. The average concertation of lead in the hair of the children of Cerro de Pasco is 36 times higher than the average of German children.

  • In Quechua Quilacocha means “the lake of seagulls”. In the last twenty years it has been transformed in a deposit of mining wastes and seagulls, and any other form of life, has disappeared.

  • An illegal “recilator” make her life by dividing the plastic from the rest of the rubbish. Meanwhile she takes the opportunity to feed her pigs that she will sell to the market in Lima.
    In Cerro de Pasco the urban waste system is managed by the mining company that deposit all on top of an old mining waste deposit that has been built on top of the spring of the Tingo river. The water is used by all the inhabitant of the valley to irrigate their crops.

  • Lionel Olivares Daga died of leukemia at the age of 6. Doctors funded very high concentration of heavy metals in his organism, including lead, arsenic and mercury.

  • A stray dog in Paragsha.

  • Dayram (8) suffer from anemia and, as the majority of children in Cerro de Pasco, has learning difficulties; largely because of the interference of lead with the brain development. Children exposed to lead in their first five years of life, have problems in their brain development that they will never recover from.

  • The “new spring” of the Tingo river where the heavy metal pollution caused by the mine connect together with the organic pollution caused by the urban wastes.

  • A children during the festivity of La Virgen de la Paz.

  • Maria Since Calzada (58) suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. The cold, the absence of hot water and heating and the interference with the normal calcification of bones and therefore illnesses like arthritis and arthrosis are very common.

  • The Virgen de la Paz on an altar of one of the Mayordomos of the festivity that for three days colors the roads of the neighborhood of José Carlos Mariategui.

  • The Quilacocha lake from the sky. The wastes of the mining processes are thrown into the lake as a sort of mud that assumes this orange color for the presence of iron oxides. This water is 5,000 times more acid then the legal limit for the protection of the ecosystem.

  • Hermelinda (8) lives in the village of Quilacocha, a few meters far away from the lake. Her body is completely covered by spots; clear symptoms of arsenic intoxication.

  • The lake of Yanamate it has also been used as a mining waste disposal. Its waters are so polluted that in the last year the authorities have built a fence in order to avoid people and animals to get close to it.

  • Benjamin (8) lives in the community of Paragsha. When he was only six years old he was diagnosed with eyes tumor and they had to remove his left eye. Hospitalized in Lima, the doctors diagnosed metastases in all his organs. Analysis has shown the link between those metastases and the presence of heavy metals in his body.

  • The Cruz del Sol that dominates the city from the mountain of Paragsha.

  • An overview of the city of Cerro de Pasco. Crumbling houses surround the site of mining extraction. The blue buildings on the right are the offices of the mining company.

  • A wedding among the roads of Cerro de Pasco.

  • Yan (13) is affected by a behavioral disease, caused by the presence of lead in his body. This disease make him violent and aggressive. Yan sit on a pipe of the old treatment plant.


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