In recent years, the Peruvian Ministry of Environment has coordinated an environmental monitoring project that involves the sampling of local water, soil, air, animals and sediment in the Espinar province, an area of approximately 2,280km2. Planning for this project started in August 2012. In addition to the participation of Peru’s National Water Authority (ANA) and Agency for Environmental Assessment and Enforcement (OEFA) in the monitoring project, the initiative combines the efforts of several national and regional governmental organisations:
- General Environmental Health Bureau (DIGESA)
- Regional Health Bureau of Cusco (DIRESA CUSCO)
- National Centre of Occupational Health and Environmental Protection for Health (CENSOPAS)
- National Animal Health Centre (SENASA)
- Geological Mining and Metallurgical Institute (INGEMMET)
- Provincial Municipality of Espinar Professional Partnership (MPE)
Following initial collection and assessment of the information obtained by the national and regional governmental organisations, the Ministry of the Environment issued a report in June 2013. This was made available to interested parties such as the Espinar municipality, community roundtables, Antapaccay and other mining and exploration companies.
The report detailed samples of surface water, underground water, drinking water, air, soil and sediment that were taken at 481 points throughout the province. The samples were tested on 40 to 50 different factors, including pH, electrical conductivity and heavy metals. The results were consolidated by the Ministry of the Environment, to form an initial study to determine what further environmental monitoring might be required.
Following this initial monitoring project, a provincial environmental health surveillance system was created, with annual monitoring activities carried out by ANA and OEFA. Results are disseminated to the public via town hall-style meetings, radio shows, newsletters and roundtables with local government, community and local mine representatives.
During the monitoring project, sampling took place in the basins of the Cañipía, Salado, Apurímac, Condoroma and Huichima rivers, with the majority of points in the Cañipía and Salado basins. The critical parameters for surface water were heavy metals, dissolved oxygen, pH and conductivity levels.
Of the 12,000+ measurements taken, only 2.2% (266) exceeded limits set by Peru’s national environmental quality standards (ECA). ANA, OEFA and INGEMMET tested surface and underground water and determined that the presence of metals in water was due to the natural mineral content of the soil geochemistry around the Cañipía and Salado river basins, and not a result of mining activity. The Salado river in particular is characterised by the presence of metals, due to its origin in the thermal waters of Chaquella.
DIGESA and OEFA tested air samples and found that airborne dust (particulate matter smaller than 10 microns (PM 10)) measurements were within ECA limits at all sampling points but one. This was in the city of Yauri-Espinar; it was concluded to be due to traffic emissions and lack of pavements in the city.
Toxin tests on animals
SENASA conducted toxicological tests on livestock samples (sheep, cattle and alpaca) provided by farmers in the province, to evaluate metal concentrations in their vital organs. Results confirmed that cause of death in all cases to be diseases related to consanguinity, malnutrition and parasites (liver fluke, hydatid disease), rather than the presence of metals. The levels of metals found were within the limits determined by the Codex Alimentarius or “Food Code” standards (set by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organization) and European regulations on food safety. In addition, the results did not indicate that toxins were related to the cause of death in any case, or to defects in newborn animals.