Huancapetí mining company fined $767,000 for contaminating Santa River

The Huancapetí mining company, a small metals producer in the Cordillera Negra in Ancash, has been fined $767,000 for dumping large quantities of mine tailings into the Santa River, a 200 kilometer−long tributary that emerges from Laguna Conococha and snakes down the western slopes of the Andes, reported daily El Comercio on Monday.

“This is an irreversible environmental catastrophe,” said Fredy Jácome de Paz, director of the Ministry of Energy and Mines’ Ancash office.

According to the ministry, Minera Huancapetí dumped approximately 1,000 liters of mine tailings into the Santa River, which flows between Peru’s Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra to form the Callejón de Huaylas, a fertile and densely populated agricultural region.

Tailings are produced when mechanical and chemical processes are used to extract the desired product from the worthless ore and are usually stored on the surface in retaining structures such as dams.

Common materials and elements found in these tailings include arsenic, barite, radioactive materials, mercury, cadmium, hydrocarbons, and sometimes cyanide and sulphuric acid. All pose a serious threat to the environment and human health.

“The company has been operating informally,” said Jácome de Paz. “It lacked basic authorizations, and its environmental impact study, which will be revised, contains information that has no basis in reality.”

“We want mines to work,” Jácome de Paz concluded, “but they must respect the environment, and the residents of the nearby communities.”

Though mining in Peru accounts for almost half of its annual $8 billion in exports – it produced 6.9 percent of the world’s gold in 2007 – it has repeatedly failed to invest in the mining communities where companies have often caused irreversible environmental damage by contaminating rivers and land. Protests are frequent as environmentalists and community leaders try to protect their land, health and future.

Sharing is caring!

Comments are closed.