At Cerro de Pasco, you can see the entire Peruvian mining history. The mine has been consuming the 400-year-old town that supports it. In the beginning, was silver and gold, and now it is copper and zinc. For centuries, the mine here ranked among the Spanish Crown’s richest, filling galleons with silver; by the early 1900s, it was Peru’s second-largest city; fancy carriages and European consuls graced its streets. In the 1950s, copper gave way to zinc and lead, which is now destined for China.
The open-pit Raul Rojas is over 1.5x1 km wide by half km deep; it laps at the retreating town like a hungry sea. A line of abandoned houses, their steel roof tiles rusting and pockmarked, serves as a no-man’s-land between the abysm and the living city; Pasco inhabitants, especially the children, are exposed to mine’s toxins.
Cerro de Pasco is one of the worst lead-poisoning clusters in the world; lead poisoning is a furtive animal, which, even in low levels, sap energy, makes joints ache, and impair learning; moderate levels, especially in children, permanently lower IQs. High lead-poisoning results in convulsions, organ dysfunction, and death.
It is clear that the Pasco situation is irreversible; for more than 400 years, the mine has changed from colonial to statal to private hands; many people think mining was before Cerro de Pasco, but how the mineral extraction has affected Pasco habitants is clear and dreadful. With this project, I share how the land has been affected and appropriated by an industrial extraction of a natural resource and how the lives, community and memory of its inhabitants have been affected by the mine and the company.