Yesterday, I flew to South America to attend a workshop that is being organized by CIDSE, and the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability (CNCA), along with a number of Latin American civil society organizations, on how transnational corporations can be more vigilant with respect to human rights – i.e. take steps to ensure that their operations do not lead to human rights violations and damage to local communities.
I will then travel to Cerro de Pasco, Peru, where partner organization Labor is working with a community affected by the highest mine in the world at an altitude of 4330 metres. The mine is run by the Volcan mining company, which is extracting lead and zinc, however, the mine is causing severe pollution, with effects including high levels of heavy metals in blood and pollution of water sources. The open pit mine has literally left a hole in the centre of the town, and the whole population has to be displaced.
My next stop will be La Oroya, Peru, a town that has been heavily polluted by a smelting operation run US-owned Doe Run. Local Archbishop Pedro Jimeno Barreto, vice president of our partner organization CEAS (Comisión episcopale para Acción Social), has received death threats for his work in defense of the rights of the local population.
For those of you who understand Spanish and would like to know more about the community of Cerro de Pasco and its difficulties, visit this website: http://elcomercio.pe/ediciononline/especiales/cerrodepasco/index.html