MAC: Mines and Communities

Peruvian workers launch blockade, reject relocation program in La Oroya

Published by MAC on 2010-06-19
Source: EFE, Business News America, AFP

A seemingly interminable four-cornered struggle, between workers, communities, administration and company, over the future of one of the world's most polluting smelters, appears no closer to resolution than it did earlier in the year. See:

The government is now anticipating a permanent shutdown of the unit while offering  the prospect of alternative livelihoods for the workforce. However, the metalworkers union is having none of this.

A Peruvian initiative has been launched, to assess public opinion on the issue, and readers are invited to partipate.



Union to reject relocation program for La Oroya workers - Peru

By Ryan Dube

Business News Americas

14 June 2010

Peru's mining, metals and steelworkers federation FNTMMSP will not support a government program to relocate workers from Lima-based Doe Run Peru's polymetallic smelter in La Oroya to mining companies, union head Luis Castillo told BNamericas.

The plan would not be beneficial for the union and would likely force many workers to take early retirement, Castillo said.

The government is currently evaluating a program to retrain La Oroya employees for other mining projects if Doe Run Peru does not restart operations at its facility by its end-July deadline, state news agency Andina reported.

Authorities are looking to set up a labor retraining program in case the company does not restart operations, according to deputy mines minister Fernando Gala. "Fortunately, Peru has a lot of new mining projects so we can, with training, place them in another mining company."

Operations at Doe Run Peru's smelter stopped last year as a result of financial troubles. If the company does not restart the facility by the deadline, the mines and energy ministry (MEM) said it will permanently close the complex.

Meanwhile, union workers are demanding the start-up of operations. On Monday they began protests in Junin region's Yauli province, where La Oroya is located, the secretary general of the smelter's union, Roberto Guzman, confirmed when contacted by BNamericas.

Authorities sent more than 1,800 police officers to La Oroya to ensure demonstrators do not block the Carretera Central highway, which runs through the town.

The metallurgical complex in La Oroya produces copper, lead, zinc and silver. Built in 1922 by the Cerro de Pasco Corporation, it is known for having caused serious lead contamination around La Oroya.

Doe Run Peru is an affiliate of the New York-based Renco Group.

General Strike Shuts Down Peruvian Mining Town


15 June 2010

LIMA - A general strike against troubled U.S.-owned miner Doe Run Peru has paralyzed the central city of La Oroya, Peruvian police told Efe on Monday.

Employees at Doe Run's giant smelter in La Oroya were out in force before dawn to shut down the main road linking the region with Lima, 185 kilometers (115 miles) to the west.

Though police later cleared the highway, motorists continue to avoid the area due to the presence of pickets, authorities said, noting the absence of any violence so far.

Schools and businesses remained closed in solidarity with the strike, as most La Oroya residents work for Doe Run, which suspended operations a year ago amid severe financial problems and the firm's failure to comply with a government-mandated environmental clean-up program known as the PAMA.

The minister of energy and mines, Pedro Sanchez, told RPP radio Monday that the La Oroya smelter will be shuttered July 24 unless Doe Run meets the government's conditions for resuming operations.

Dismissing concerns about job losses, he said Doe Run's roughly 3,000 employees could easily find work with other mining outfits in central Peru.

Transport Minister Enrique Cornejo said his department has established three alternate routes to ensure transit for Lima-bound passengers and cargo, while the Interior Ministry announced the dispatch of 2,000 police to La Oroya and the National Ombudsman's Office urged strikers to avoid confrontation with authorities.

Doe Run Peru has operated the La Oroya smelter - which produces lead, zinc, copper, silver and gold, as well as byproducts such as sulfuric acid and indium - since 1997 and the Cobriza copper mine in the southern Huancavelica region since 1998.

The firm pared back operations to a minimum in June 2009, saying it lacked sufficient funds after a group of foreign banks had cut off its credit line a few months earlier.

The company, owned by U.S.-based Renco Group, also was expelled from Peru's National Association of Mining, Petroleum and Energy in January for its alleged lack of willingness to complete the PAMA.

Doe Run Peru has carried out roughly half of the clean-up work, but needs another $160 million to finish the job in La Oroya, one of the world's most polluted places.

Workers launch blockade at Peru smelter


15 June 2010

LIMA - Thousands of Peruvian workers blocked a key highway, risking clashes with police at a US-owned smelter at the center of a bitter year-long environmental dispute.

Defying a massive police operation to prevent the blockade, workers from the facility in the central town of La Oroya placed boulders and tree trunks across sections of Highway 20, a main east-to-west artery in the Andean nation.

A similar blockade at the complex -- which refines lead, zinc, gold and copper -- boiled over into ugly clashes with riot police last September that left one officer dead.

"The town is totally paralyzed, 3,500 workers are taking part in the action with the support of the entire population of La Oroya," union leader Roberto Guzman told AFP by telephone.

The Peruvian government deployed 2,000 police officers and 500 troops to stand guard over the highway.

The protest marked the start of an indefinite strike to compel the government to push back a July 15 deadline imposed on the US firm Doe Run to comply with new environmental regulations.

President Alan Garcia issued an ultimatum to the company, ordering it to resume operations by July 24 or face being shut down for good.

"We can't be placed with our backs to the wall by a company that hasn't followed through with the investments it agreed to make... it's blackmail to try to get more time from the government and parliament," Garcia told a press conference as he accused the firm of backing the protests.

"We've been lenient, but there's a limit to that. We can't make any more exceptions."

If Doe Run isn't up and running by the stated date, Garcia warned "it will be closed down as promised."

Energy Minister Pedro Sanchez said a plan was underway to relocate Doe Run workers to other mining jobs across Peru if the smelter is shuttered.

Privatized and sold to Doe Run in 1997, the mine is notorious for making La Oroya the most polluted town in Peru. Sulfur dioxide from its smelters have prompted serious health concerns for the local populace of some 60,000.

It was hoped Doe Run would be able to convert it into a clean-running facility, but the company has failed to meet several deadlines to do so as has run into financial trouble.

Doe Run is accused of resorting to "blackmail" by inciting its workers to side with the company's demand for a deadline extension.

The firm owes more than 200 million dollars in debts and back taxes and is asking for a 20-year repayment moratorium, which the government says is unacceptable.

Doe Run, an affiliate of the US group Renco, is one of the world's leading lead producers and is based in the central US state of Missouri.

La Oroya Campaign

This is a critical time for the people of La Oroya, Peru, and we need to hear YOUR VOICE in order to help them.

Here is a 5 QUESTION (YES/NO) SURVEY regarding demands being made to the government of Peru by the company Doe Run Peru that will negatively affect the people and environment of La Oroya. Please take 3 minutes to fill it out. For an introduction to the issue, please read below:

La Oroya is one of the ten most contaminated cities in the world (according to Blacksmith Institute). The population finds itself gravely effected by the contamination produced by the Metallurgical Complex operated by the mining company Doe Run Peru. This company belongs to the North American billionaire, Ira Rennert. Thirteen years ago the company committed itself to investing in the modernization of the metallurgical complex through the state mandated Environmental Clean-Up Program (known in Peru as the PAMA). To date, the company has not finished its commitment despite the fact that the mandated time frame has expired and despite that various extensions have been provided.

In the United States, the holding company, Renco Group, for Doe Run Peru has invested in new technologies at its smelter in Herculaneum, Missouri in order to meet the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States

After many years of economic profit (the net gains of Doe Run Peru by the end of 2008 were $508 million - La Republica 28/03/2009), the mining company inexplicably declared itself in a state of economic and financial crisis. In June of 2009, it then halted the operations of the Metallurgical Complex in La Oroya, ceasing to fulfill its contracted obligations with its workers and creditors. In the face of this situation, the Peruvian State has tried to help the company through various opportunities to escape this crisis. Nonetheless, the company has taken advantage of the State in order to escape its responsibilities. And today, the start up of the plant comes with conditions placed by Doe Run Peru, which has placed new demands before the State.

If the Peruvian State consulted with you about these demands by Doe Run Peru, what would you say?

Please take 3 minutes to fill out this survey.

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