37 images Created 9 Nov 2015
Between Water and Gold
While commodities prices slump all over the world, big projects got delayed constrained by economical and environmental concerns, not to mention new regulations. Newmont’s Yanacocha gold pits, the world’s second largest is no exception. Perched 4000 meter above sea level in the Peruvian mountains, its transition project Conga is indefinitely on hold since violent riots ended up with the dead of 5 farmers in 2012. 11,6 million ounces of gold and 3 billion pounds of copper valued in 28,6 billion dollars (in values of 2012), to be extracted through a 19 year lifespan, attracted many eyes and hands. Blamed by foes and social movements for not bringing enough development to 400.000 souls’ Cajamarca, depleting and contaminating wetlands, groundwater and lagoons vital to the survival of Andean farmers, Yanacocha is also one of the most important sources of revenue to the Peruvian state. Throwing billions of dollars in the last decade or so, it has boosted jobs and careers of Peruvians and the fortune of Newmont, who often refers to the mine as the “crown’s jewel”. As the city grows following the success of the last 850 square kilometer of explored gold pits, a fierce competence for water sources arise. Yanacocha alleges its usage is less than 5% of the total amount of water used in Cajamarca and that it reuses its water on a closed system. At the same time acknowledges that too much of heavy rains could overpass their capacity to store water and it could end up in the streams again. Yet many residents from towns surrounding the river basins flowing out of the mine’s mountains, like Bambamarca, Cajamarca and Celendin complain of chronic water shortages. Common are diarrheas in humans fed by the streams. Animal herds perish slowly after drinking straight from the streams, farmers tell . In the walls of several rural villages and the capital's poorest neighborhood's suspicion is felt in form of graffiti where is possible to read: water yes, gold no. But as economy shrinks and revenues dwindle, people start to realize that gold mining can now be a harder addiction to get rid off. Report for Bloomberg News, essay for Hilaea Media.