Mines

30 09 2007

I didn’t realise how much of the land is being torn up in Peru. The copper mine and the gold mine of a few days ago have been added to by the horrendous pollution of whatever they do at La Oroya (from the company web site they make a cocktail of copper, lead zinc, bismuth, silver and indium). The La Oroya operators claim to operate in a “socially and environmentally responsible way”. I can tell you that they also produce sulphur dioxide at the plant, and have contaminated the valley below the plant with this noxious gas. Our eyes, throats and lungs burnt for hours as we descended from the town. The hill sides have been scoured of vegetation. The river looked in poor health. At the risk of ranting, the company has an article on it’s website about an appeal to a fine they have received. Apparently they are operating within their operating parameters as set by the government:

“Air quality standards: The company has met monthly air quality targets since March, for the first time in La Oroya’s history”

I suggest the government set stricter targets. The problem is the government now owns the mine. Draw your own conclusions.

Anyway, the road was otherwise pleasant. We descended only 450m while travelling 125km. Could this be the perfect gradient for travelling by bike? Ok, so we climbed about the same amount (and then descended this as well), but it was basically downhill all day.

More mines lined the road. Some were digging the sand and gravel from the river bed, others were destroying the limestone cliffs by the river.

And then the steep valley opened into a wide, obviously fertile, valley. Every inch was cultivated for something, all sorts of crops are grown. From my point of view, the most interesting part was most of the small fields are lined with gum trees – yes the eucalypt makes a strong appearance here (as other places as well).

Today is a rest day in Huancayo. If I get over the current round of stomach problems, I’ll be tackling the next set of super high passes in the next few days. If I don’t I’ll follow the river valley (the route Jurg and Rahel are going to take) to the same destination.


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