Several miles of the Rio Huallaga riverbed, in Pasco, were affected by the Atacocha mine tailings spill. For that reason, the Agriculture Department (Minag) ordered to divert the river to mitigate the contamination in the area. The mining company extracts zinc, lead, and copper, with gold and silver contents, in Chicrin, Pasco.
Monday 03 September 2012 13:38
Inhabitants of the Chicrin and Cajamarquilla communities, from the Yanacocha district, Pasco, alerted about the spill, after which several brigades belonging to the National Water Authority (ANA) depending on Minag went to the area to investigate and determine the magnitude of the incident.
During the inspection agents from the Agriculture Department were able to verify that about 5 miles of the Rio Huallaga riverbed was affected by heavy materials, sediments, and mud-type substances. The accident occurred on the early hours on last Wednesday.
To avoid major damages, the water was immediately diverted through a new riverbed of the same river. The intention was to allow for settling and removal of the mud, thus mitigating the area contamination.
The initial research reveals that the incident may have occurred by the discharge of untreated water coming from the Atacocha mine processing plant.
At the same time, agents from the Environmental Evaluation and Control Office (OEFA) took river and sediment samples to determine the degree of water and river contamination. Results of the analysis would be ready by Monday September 3.
The authorities not only inspected the mine itself but also checked the functioning of the sedimentation plant, the authorization for controlled spills, reuse and spills of residual waters, and the contingency plan, keeping track of all documents.
According to preliminary reports, the spill might be related to human error during a personnel shift change.
Personnel from the independent Pasco Local Water Authority (ALA) has also been assigned to supervise the accident related tasks. Agents from the Pasco Environmental Office also visited the site to verify the environmental damage.
The Atacocha mine is located at 13120 feet above sea level, in Chicrin, Cerro de Pasco.
Atacocha currently have 157 mining concessions over 5620 acres, and produces concentrates of zinc, lead, and copper, with gold and silver contents.
INFRACTIONS IN 2008
In 2008 the Peruvian Office for the Overseing of Investments in Energy and Mining, Osinergmin, reported that the mining company made 17 infractions to environmental regulations, for which it was fined with 266 Tax Units (UIT), about US$ 1340.