Peru: 20 years after the mercury spill at mine owned by Newmont, Buenaventura Mining Company and Sumitomo, villagers experience negative health impacts

Author: The Guardian (UK), Published on: 3 April 2020

“The village still suffering from Peru mercury spill fallout – after 20 years”, 2nd April 2020

…In the past few months, more than five people have died from illnesses that locals believe are the result of the spill. Mayor Ronald Mendoza Guarniz says he feels his town is dying for a second time…

Disaster struck this community on 2 June 2000, when a canister of mercury overturned on a truck travelling to Lima, Peru’s capital, from the Yanacocha gold mine in Cajamarca, Peru’s poorest region. Yanacocha is Latin America’s largest gold mine.

More than 150kg of mercury – a byproduct of gold extraction – dribbled along the dirt road that passes through Choropampa and two other villages. Residents, including pregnant women and children, scooped up the liquid and took it home…

An investigation into the spill by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) found that the canisters were not secured properly on to the truck and one had tipped over.

At the time of the spill, the IFC had a 5% stake in Minera Yanacocha, which is owned and run by the US-based Newmont Corporation, Peru’s Buenaventura Mining Company and Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd. The IFC sold its stake in 2017.

The mining company sent in a cleanup crew and offered villagers cash if they returned any mercury they had collected. However, according to an investigation by Defensoría del Pueblo, the Peruvian ombudsman’s office, only about a third of the mercury was recovered…

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Related companies: Compañia de Minas Buenaventura Minera Yanacocha (joint venture Newmont, Sumitomo & Compañía de Minas Buenaventura) Newmont (formerly Newmont Goldcorp) Sumitomo Group