High in the Andes, A Mine Eats a 400-Year-Old City
The mine at Cerro de Pasco, Peru, once funneled silver to the Spanish crown. Today, it’s consuming the town—and poisoning children with lead.
CERRO DE PASCO, PeruFor a woman intent on moving an entire city, fifty-six-year old Congresswoman Gloria Ramos Prudencio, barely five feet tall, looks unassuming. Her city is Cerro de Pasco, population 70,000. Perched on the treeless Peruvian altiplano at 14,200 feet, it’s one of the highest cities on the planet.
“As a girl, walking past Bellavista, where the Americans lived, I would pester my mother, ‘Why do the gringos get the nice houses?’ ” the soft-spoken Ramos recalls. “In school my teachers called me preguntona”— she of too many questions.
These days, her main question is how to save her hometown from a very big hole.
Latin America over the past decade has seen its mining sector triple in value to $300 billion.