CERRO DE PASCO — More than 2,000 children in Peru's Pasco region have blood lead levels far higher than what the World Health Organization says is a safe range for children, and at least 70 of them are suffering from resulting physical illnesses and disabilities, Lima-based daily El Comercio reports.
The culprit is mining, and to protest the environmental and physical damage that it has wrought on their city, 58 activists from the central Peruvian city of Cerro de Pasco recently began a long "march of sacrifice" to the capital of Lima, 320 kilometers away. Cerro de Pasco is the region's capital and has been a center of global silver production since the Spanish colonial era.
The primary goal of the march is to pressure the Peruvian government to provide medical care to the children and to open a clinic to treat those suffering from mining-related illnesses.
Cerro de Pasco is home to a large open pit polymetal mine, and the Pasco region is rich with mineral deposits.
El Comercio writes that a local construction company stored hazardous residue from open pit mining for several years, contaminating local communities in the process. The Peruvian Health Ministry announced in a press statement that it treated 250 children from Pasco, but the Pasco Regional Hospital's director said that none of the patients showed signs of lead poisoning.
The villagers, activists and environmentalists will continue the march nonetheless and plan to reach Lima by Oct. 3.