Alessandro Cinque

Freelance Photojournalist

PERU, A TOXIC STATE

Title: Peru, a Toxic State – 2017-Ongoing

Peru is the leading producer of gold, silver and lead in Latin America and the second largest producer of copper in the world. Mining activity is the driving force of the country's economy which has been growing since the early 2000s. In 2019 mining accounted for 60% of exports and 8.8% of GDP, more than double the amount of income from tourism.

However, there is a dark side: about ten million people-mostly native populations living in small communities-are forced to share their land, air and water with the mining sites that are growing along the Andes Mountain range. And as a result they have seen the environment and their living conditions deteriorate considerably over the past 20 years.

Peru: A Toxic State is a journey of four years covering eight thousand kilometers and six mining communities that shows the impact of a government that violates the rights of indigenous peoples in the name of profit. Photographed along the corredor minero this project shows the social, health and environmental consequences of living near these mines. And, due to corruption in the local governments, the indigenous communities receive no benefits from the mining profits and continue to live in poverty.

Mining also plunders water in large quantities for extraction, creating arid fields and the death of livestock. Agriculture and raising animals, which were the main sources of survival, can no longer sustain these Andean communities.

The little water that remains is contaminated by a high presence of heavy metals that is reflected in the blood and urine of the population, causing health problems like anemia, respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, cancer, and congenital malformations that local clinics are unable to handle. The lands are devastated by these huge excavations, new infrastructures and toxic waste deposits.

Peru: A Toxic State is an example of the damage caused by neocolonialism in South America, when the neoliberal policies do not even stop the violation of human rights. And the cultural identity of people who honor Pacha Mama, Mother Earth, as a deity are devasted by these effects.