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Water quality studies in Peru: connecting mines, communities, government and researchers

Water quality studies in Peru: connecting mines, communities, government and researchers

Alumni story Shianny main pic

Shianny is involved in research analysing the environmental relationship between ground and surface water, sediments and rocks and how these could affect human health in Ichuña region, Peru. This study aims to provide important evidence to help address community concerns that mining companies are polluting the environment.

Ichuña is a district in southern Peru with 2000 inhabitants. Water is a vital resource for the community as their main livelihood is agriculture and livestock. Ichuña was chosen as the research area because the large San Gabriel gold mine; several smaller silver, lead, zinc and copper mines and a number of tailing dams are located within the watershed.

The research aims to understand how heavy metals interact with the environment in the absence and presence of mining activity; determine the impact of abandoned mines and whether they are the source of pollutants. The results of the study will be shared with communities and mining companies so that they have baseline data.

“There is much fear in the community that mining companies are polluting the surrounding water and the environment, the community feels that the mining companies are not honest. It is for this reason that the State needs this kind of research to show the behavior of water and sediment before the start of mining operations in Ichuña, so that in future there is no social conflict.”

Involvement in the IM4DC action research project with academics from Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation, Sustainable Minerals Institute, University of Queensland as well as attending a training course on Environment Management in Mining in Australia has helped the INGEMMET team refine their research methodology.

“ It has changed the way we work, we now work looking at international standards and use guides or work methods using the example of other countries that have developed similar studies. For example, we are developing the methodology for collecting water samples, for this we are considering the Australian guidelines.”

Shianny says involvement in the training and research “gave us the opportunity to strengthen our skills, to develop them together with our team in our country. In addition, we can consult with specialists about all cases in different parts of the world, promoting the exchange of knowledge.”

Community involvement is an important focus of this project, with the community kept informed and involved in the fieldwork. One of the successes has been the promotion of communication and trust between the government, community and mining company.”

Sharing the success of this collaboration between the government, mining companies, communities and researchers earned Shianny a MEfDA-M4DLink Alumni award to attend the Social Responsible Mining Conference in Chile in November 2015.

Shianny hopes that the results from this study will help government make evidence based policy. Her future plans include developing a manual on how to conduct these studies.

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