Case study - Environmental and human contamination Cerro de Pasco lead mine
Cerro de Pasco is a mining town located on the high plateau of central Peru. Numerous Peruvian governmental authorities and NGOs, as well as international organizations, have reported that Cerro de Pasco is exposed to extreme levels of environmental pollution caused by mining which impacts on the health of the town’s inhabitants.
CCCA has developed a case hypothesis and an information collection plan for Cerro de Pasco. These were further refined in consultation with members of its board of directors and advisory board, the Netherlands Forensic Institute and during the 2018 corporate crimes conference organized by Amnesty International and the International Corporate Accountability Round Table.
Source International—a non-profit organization of environmental scientists with over 10 years of experience in Cerro de Pasco—is CCCA’s primary partner in this project. In addition, the following organizations and experts have cooperated with CCCA in collecting and analysing information relating to this project: the American Association for the Advancement of Science (“AAAS”) provided expertise in multiple scientific fields, such as remote sensing, satellite imagery analysis and toxicology; Cyber Environmental Law Enforcement (“CybELE”) provided Earth Observation services; the Human Rights Program of the University of Essex and the Human Rights Center at the University of California Berkeley School of Law conducted open source investigations and analysis; a team of experts in forensic medicine conducted medical examinations of affected children; the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies deployed scientific and legal experts in the field; Centro de Cultura Popular LABOR provided local expertise, logistical support and access to local information and persons affected by the mine; and the New York based architecture practice SITU produced a visual platform of the collected information.
CCCA used its law enforcement expertise to direct and coordinate the information collection of its partners and conducted a thorough analysis of all the available information to ensure that information relied upon is credible and reliable. Based on that information CCCA found as follows:
First, many of Cerro de Pasco’s inhabitants are severely contaminated with heavy metals, including lead, arsenic, chrome, manganese, iron and aluminium—all heavy metals that are related to the mining activities in Cerro de Pasco. This contamination severely impacts on the physical and mental health of many people of Cerro de Pasco, especially the children of the neighbourhood of Paragsha.
Second, the contamination with heavy metals is caused primarily by the ingestion of contaminated soil, water and food and through inhalation or ingestion of contaminated dust. The residential soil of Cerro de Pasco, including in children playgrounds, is contaminated with heavy metals. The water of the rivers around Cerro de Pasco and the city’s drinking water is also contaminated with heavy metals. Some of the food supplies of Cerro de Pasco are directly impacted by contaminated water and soil, through which heavy metals enter the human food chain. In addition, dust particles produced by the mine deposit on the ground, crops, food and houses of the surrounding area, which increases the human intake of heavy metals.
Third, since Volcan Compañía Minera S.A.A. (“Volcan”) acquired the Cerro de Pasco mine in 1999, it repeatedly introduced into the environment heavy metals, such as lead, arsenic, chrome, manganese, iron and aluminium in excess of maximum permissible levels established under Peruvian law. In so doing, it significantly increased previous levels of contamination of the soil, water, food and dust in and around Cerro de Pasco. It also significantly contributed to increasing levels of human heavy metal contamination from 1999 onwards.
As a result, Volcan is responsible for the environmental contamination in Cerro de Pasco and for the direct impact that this has on the physical and mental health of many people of Cerro de Pasco.
As a first step, CCCA submitted a report to the Council on Ethics for the Norwegian Pension Fund Global to contribute informing its position on whether the Pension Fund should divest from the corporation that own the absolute majority of Volcan's voting shares. For the full version of the report, see Center for Climate Crime Analysis Report to the Council on Ethics of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global on the situation in Cerro de Pasco.
For information about CCCA's Forest Crimes Initiative in the Amazon Basin, see here.