Photo Feature: Open Pit Mining, Cerro de Pasco // Supay Foto

     |    Monday, der 12. April 2010

Photo Credit: Satellite image of Cerro de Pasco, Google Maps


Cerro de Pasco is located in the Andes mountains in central Peru. Spanish conquerers established this area as a mining town in 1578. Its centuries long silver and zinc production has made the city one of the most important mining areas in the world – similar to the Cerro Rico in Bolivia’s Potosí. Today 70,000 people live in Cerro de Pasco. It is also the capital of the Pasco region.

Since the mid 1950’s the Cerro de Pasco Copper Corporation began strip mining not far from the city. Over the past 50 years, the mine has changed hands a few times: in the 1970’s ownership went from America to the Peruvian state. In 1999 the mine was privatized and taken over by the Volcan Mining Company.

Since 1956 the crater-like open-pit mine has grown so rapidly that one Cerro de Pasco city district after another has had to be relocated. The most recent expansion plans foresee destroying the entire historic downtown area of city.

Twice a day – at 11 am and 3 pm – explosions rock the city as Volcan blasts deeper into the ore-rich rock. House walls crack and some homes even collapse completely. The townspeople have been living with this situation for a number of years. They are faced with the difficult choice of either relocating or putting up with the explosions.

Cerro de Pasco has also become one of the most contaminated areas on the planet. Dust and heavy metals (such as lead) fill the air and pollute the ground. Approximately 50% of all children in the city have dangerously high concentrations of lead in their blood.

Im December 2008, the Peru congress passed a law that mandated the forced relocation of Cerro de Pasco. But many people in the mining town don’t want to just give up their lives there and their memories. And the worldwide fall in price for iron ore and the global financial crisis since 2008 have also done their bit.

Photo essay by Marco Garro (Supay Foto) about life in and around Cerro de Pasco + in SOMOS