Torata is a small agricultural town in Peru, located only 6 km from the Cuajone minesite. Its people are very friendly and the town is well lit at night. In Torata, you can breathe pure air and enjoy crystalline streams formed from melting snowfall. One can drink the water directly out of these streams and breathe the fresh air that surrounds this beautiful town that seems to have stopped in time and where old customs are still upheld. People are very kind and very welcoming; if they see a stranger, they do their best to treat them well and feel welcome, no matter where the person comes from. Torata is definitely a piece of heaven, where one can enjoy delicious food, feel welcome, and where landscapes seem to have been taken from a science fiction movie.
What makes the existence of a town like Torata special? It is not the attributes mentioned above, nor is it its history or beauty! Torata, compared to the thousands of small towns that exist in Peru, is located only 6 km from a large minesite called Cuajone, as well as its mineral concentrator plant. The Cuajone minesite is mainly engaged in the production of copper and other by-products. The Cuajone minesite is one of the main copper producers in Peru, and has been operating for several decades.
Much is said on how mining and agriculture cannot go hand in hand, but this example of the Cuajone Minesite and Torata prove that wrong. To date, Torata has not registered any cases of pollution or diseases in its population due to a minesite and a concentrator plant situated so close. The relationship between the workers of the Cuajone Minesite and the inhabitants of Torata is excellent, and they have become strategic partners. People from Torata have improved their quality of life by having the opportunity to direct their businesses to the workers of the minesite, as well as their families. It is not uncommon for inhabitants from Torata to visit the mine campsite to offer their products for sale, such as cheese, honey, guinea pigs, wine, etc. It is not only the good relationship between the two parties that should be emphasized, but the fact that the workers of the minesite feel so identified with this small community (Torata) that, out of their own pockets, they support them during difficult times. It is admirable to see how the minesite workers and their families can comfortably walk in the village of Torata without the need for bodyguards or the fear of being attacked or be seen with contempt. It is quite the opposite, where both workers and family members are welcomed with open arms.
It is time to get rid of the myth that mining and agriculture cannot operate in the same area. Torata and the Cuajone minesite have proven coexistence possible. If mining companies operate responsibly and use the latest technology available, there would be no problems with the surrounding communities, and it would be easier to gain their trust. The next step is to definitively to make local communities feel part of the process and show them support. The only way to create a win-win scenario is to have an attitude of cooperation within the mining company towards the community and vice versa. Only then will we generate sustainable development and large investment for the benefit of all.
By: Víctor Mendoza Pérez