10 years back, June 2: Mercury accident hits Choropampa

     |    Wednesday, der 2. June 2010

“Long ago the Spanish used weapons to kill our ancestors and take our wealth. Now they only need to contaminate us and take our wealth from under our noses.”, Julia Carrasco, farmer, Choropampa


Dear friends,

On June 2nd, 2000, a truck from South America’s largest gold mine spilled 151 kilograms of liquid mercury, contaminating three villages in Peru’s northern Andean mountains. The mining company admits that over 900 people were poisoned, but villagers say the real number is much higher.

The villagers’ courageous struggle for health care and justice inspired my colleague Ernesto Cabellos and I to make the documentary ‘Choropampa, The Price of Gold’. The film has been broadcast in the United States, Canada, Burma, Peru and several other Latin American countries. It has screened at over 50 film festivals on 5 continents and won 10 international awards. Yet despite this exposure and an international advocacy campaign, the villagers still haven’t received adequate health care or justice.

Each time I return to Choropampa, people have grown weaker, as though a terrible plague has befallen the village. Many are losing their sight and motor-skills, their hands tremble uncontrollably, they have difficulty walking and some are even paralized. They die of mysterious illnesses, and yet the company and Peruvian government insist the “mercury problem” has been resolved.

Choropampa’s story is as powerful today, as it was in 2002 when we released the film. I hope their brave voices will touch you as much as they have guided and moved me over the years.

—Stephanie Boyd