In the highlands of Peru, there are more than 8 thousand mining tailings sites that contaminate rivers and freshwater sources with acidic rock and metal residue drainage. Many communities that live from agriculture have had to leave the area due to water contamination. But an indigenous community, decided to give a solution to the problem and managed to heal their river naturally, with some help from scientific input.
A conflict with the mining industry
In the high mountains of Peru, there are at least 7 thousand communities that share the territory with industrial mining concessions. As a consequence, there are social conflicts that this causes, but above all, of an environmental nature, since some communities have had to abandon their territory. Land and water have been affected by the 8,791 small-scale dispersed old tailings deposits. These tailings produce acid mine drainage (AMD) that filters metals into the water, affecting agriculture and the health of communities.
However, in the Cordillera Blanca, which is in the Ancash region, a community with the help of scientific contributions managed to naturally heal their river. Active members of the indigenous community, were trained in key aspects of water quality, collected information and discussed it with their community. In this way, they came to the solution of creating a bioremediation system that uses simple techniques to sediment water and capture metals with the help of artificial wetlands.
A bioremediation system
In this sense, a system consisting of 3 sedimentation cells was built; that is, spaces where water rests to sediment the largest particles of pollution rocks. The water then flows into artificial wetlands created with native plants capable of absorbing metals from the water. Sulfate reducing bacteria that the local university provided to the community were also cultivated to achieve good water filtration.
As a result of the implementation of the aforementioned system, together with ancestral knowledge and the active participation of the indigenous community of Peru, they managed to heal their river. Additionally, they managed to reduce the level of metals in the water to ranges approved for use in agriculture.
The solution is the first of its kind used in small rural communities that benefits an entire community, which knows that it must now no longer abandon its lands.