In the heart of Cerro de Pasco, a Peruvian city perched 14,000 feet in the Andes, a mile-wide mine pit smolders. For residents, the growls of heavy machinery are background noise. Just as ever-present is the hazardous cocktail of smoke and lead that seeps into their air and water. “As the mine grows in diameter, it eats away at the city and its residents little by little,” said the photographer Paccarik Orue.
The Spanish found silver in the caverns of Cerro de Pasco 500 years ago, and through the 20th century its mines enriched many — including prominent Americans. The caverns were opened in 1956, a move that unleashed a host of environmental hazards and has since posed a dilemma for residents whose disdain for the pit is as intense as their pride in the culture surrounding it.