Jason Houston // Cerro de Pasco, Peru
Jason Houston is in Peru working on a story on mining for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. El Tajo, or The Pit, in Cerro de Pasco, Peru. This polymetal mine, at 14,210 feet elevation, over a mile wide, and nearly 1500' deep, grows in the middle of this city of 70,000 people. Residents are regularly relocated as the rim literally swallows houses or toxic tailings piles fill back yards. Lead levels in dust and dirt tested (by the CDC) in the community have been reported at 1,200 to over 20,000 ppm, or upwards of 50x the levels considered safe for children by the EPA. Other pollutants prevalent in the soil, air, and water include cadmium, mercury, and arsenic.