Morococha, a town in the Yauli Province of the Junin Region of Peru, used to be home to around 5,000 people but today many have fled the town due to contamination, poverty and lack of opportunity. Others, meanwhile, have been forcefully expelled through harassment and the bulldozing of their homes. Many families from the community were relocated to a nearby location, New Morococha, which is nowadays also in grave decay.
The attempt to relocate Morococha started in 2012 when Chinalco built New Morococha 12 kilometers away in order to begin the copper mining project through Toromocho, the name given to the huge mine in the area. Since then, New Morococha has been presented by the company and the government as an example of successful resettlement. However, Peruvian media outlet Gran Angular reports the streets of New Morococha are often completely empty, with an abundance of "for rent" and "for sale" signs visible in the houses of the town. Meanwhile, just 70 families are estimated to have remained in Morococha, which in part remembles a desolated warzone.
Morococha is located high up in the Andes, some 4,500 meters above sea level in Central Peru. It was founded over one hundred years ago as a mining town. The idea of developing the Toromocho project was generally welcomed when it was proposed in 2006 as it was presented as an opportunity for progress, employment and improvements in the quality of life. The project would result in transforming local mining, from the far more perilous underground variant to the much safer open pit strategy that would, however, ultimately result in the demolition of the town.
A desolate street in New Morococha | Source: Rael Mora
Four years after New Morococha was founded, most residents denounce Chinalco for not following through with their promises of providing jobs to the people and installing the mining camp near the town.
Rosemary Poma moved from Morococha to New Morococha two years ago. “Before there was business," she told Gran Angular. "You could sell coffee and pancakes or wash clothes and it would be fine. But now it's not like that here. There are no people. It's like a ghost city.”
Only around three-quarters of the 4,000 people relocated to New Morococha stayed there. Only 240 of those remaining in New Morococha have jobs at Toromocho Mine and 110 work for companies subcontracted by the mine. Due to the technology used, open pit mining only requires about 10 percent of the labor force that the former underground mining method used.
Cesar Reyna, an advisor in the municipality of New Morococha, told teleSUR that those emigrating from the town do so because they're unable to “satisfy their necessities for health, food and recreation” and they lack "economic possibilities.” The houses built in New Morococha are also inadequate while nine heavy metals reside in the soil which can cause cancer, adds Reyna.
A bulldozed area of Morococha | Source: Rael Mora
In Morococha, those who have remained also denounce Chinalco, many for not offering them a just and reasonable compensation for their homes. Many parts of the town seem to have been bombed and reduced to rubble. There are no schools, health posts or police station. The remaining houses shake with each and every explosion of the mine, which continues to encroach upon the proximity of the town. The president of the Front of the Districts of Morococha told Gran Angular, “the explosions are daily. My house is cracked and recently my roof has also broken.”
During the 2011 presidential campaign, former president Ollanta Humala visited Morococha where he promised its residents that "Toromocho is a no go." Once in power, he sided with Chinalco, however, declaring a state of emergency in the area for six months. During this time, homes, schools, public institutions and human livelihoods were bulldozed and destroyed. Under Peru's current leadership of President Pablo Kuczynski, this support is expected to continue.