Doe Run, déjà vu?
A town polluted by toxic fumes and corporate lies.
US-based Doe Run Peru has submitted new "conditions" in order to complete environmental cleanup at its hugely-polluting metallurgical complex at La Oroya.
Will the company get away with this stratagem?
According to the NGO CooperAcción, Doe Run's tactics are reminiscent of those it used in 2006 and 2009, with the same objective - to get an extension of the time required to fulfill its basic environmental responsibilities.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Pedro Jimeno Barreto of Huancayo and his team have received death threats for opposing the re-opening of the Doe Run smelter.
For previous story, see: In Peru, one of the world's worst polluters is set to reopen
Doe Run submits new proposal to Peru's Government to restart operations at La Oroya
By Cecilia Jamasmie
4 April 2012
Peru's Minister of Energy and Mines Jorge Merino Tafur said Doe Run Peru has submitted new conditions to complete environmental cleanup at its metallurgical complex at La Oroya, including a new restructuring plan in the hopes to restart operations this year, reports local newspaper La República.
|Mountains of toxic slag. In Huanchán, a five minutes
drive from La Oroya, the landscape turns black.
Source: La República
The minister added the government is working hard on creating social programs for the communities and towns of La Oroya, which has been severely affected by the closure of Doe Run's metallurgical complex three years ago.
He said it is the Government's position to support the re-opening of the plant, as far as Doe Run respects the legal framework, local workers, the health of the population and the environment.
The complex consists of smelters and refineries that process minerals mined from the Andes Mountains into copper, lead, zinc and other metals.
Mineweb reports that the Missouri-based parent company Renco Doe Run has suggested that the Peruvian government take responsibility for third-party claims and the costs of litigation filed against Renco in U.S. courts.
Renco has long insisted that Peru's government appears in lawsuits filed against Renco and its affiliates over environmental contamination at the polymetallic smelters at La Oroya. As part of Doe Run Peru's 1997 privatization agreement, the government agreed to assume responsibility for third-party claims related to contamination in La Oroya until the company had completed its environmental clean-up program.
Due to financial difficulties Doe Run Peru halted operations in 2009 without completing the environmental clean-up program.
Minister Merino said Doe Run has pushed the deadline for resuming operations at La Oroya from May 1st to the end of June.
Prior consultation law
Yesterday Peru approved its prior consultation law, designed to comply with the International Labor Organization's (ILO) agreement 169 on the rights of indigenous communities to participate in development projects on their land.
Under the new regulation, companies and local communities such as those in La Oroya, must reach agreements that make investment projects compatible with the customs of the indigenous population within 120 calendar days.
The outcome of the consultation process will not be binding unless an agreement is reached between the parties involved.
Mining companies have seen increasing social opposition to their projects in recent months in Peru and the new consultation law could help to reactivate their activities.
Archbishop in Peru threatened for calling for responsible environmental regulation of smelter
By Mary Durran, International Programs Officer for Latin America
Development & Peace
14 March 2012
On March 2nd, 2012, Archbishop Pedro Jimeno Barreto of Huancayo and his team, received anonymous death threats for opposing the re-opening of a US owned polymetallic smelter in the city of La Oroya. For many years now, Archbishop Barreto, who is the President of the Justice and Solidarity department of the Latin American Bishops' Conference (CELAM), and the former president of the Bishops' Social Action Commission (CEAS), an organization supported by Development and Peace, has spoken out against the operations of the smelter.
Its activities have made La Oroya one of the most polluted cities in the world. Alarming rates of lead and other metals have been found present in the blood of local residents, and many respiratory problems and other diseases have been reported.
Following a church-led campaign in 2009, Doe Run, the company that operated the smelter, was forced to close down operations, resulting in dramatic improvements in public health.
However, recently the Peruvian Congress has started debating a law permitting the extension of the smelter's Environmental Remediation and Management Program (ERMP or PAMA in Spanish) and the re-launch of operations, despite the fact that the smelter's activities have proven to be extremely harmful to the health of the population, and the company has never complied with the terms of the ERMP.
Archbishop Barreto has spoken out against the proposed re-launch, arguing that operations should not be re-started without first enacting the previous ERMP. Two days after making a public statement, he and his team received telephoned death threats.
As Archbishop Barreto stated: "The biggest threat to our lives is to continue to accept the pollution of the atmosphere, lead in the blood of our children and to know that the future will not be better after all this contamination."
To show your support of Archbishop Barreto, you can write a letter to the President of Peru, and put in copy the Secretary General of CEAS, to say that you are concerned about the death threats being made against Archbishop Barreto and his colleagues. You can include that you would like their safety ensured, and that the re-opening of the smelter is unacceptable if the rights of citizens to a healthy environment is not respected.
This is a sample letter in Spanish that can be used, or you can also write one in your own language.
Señor Ollanta Humala Tasso
Presidente de la República del Perú
Palacio de Gobierno
Como miembros de la Organización Canadiense Catolica para el Desarrollo y la Paz, hemos sido informados de que Monseñor Pedro Jimeno Barreto, Arzobispo de Huancayo, y Vicepresidente de la Conferencia Episcopal Peruana, y sus colaboradores del equipo Mantaro Revive han sido objetos de amenazas de muerte telefónicas el viernes 2 de marzo. Quiséramos expresar nuestra preocupación de que este episodio de seria intimidación ha ocurrido dos días después de haberse publicado un comunicado del Arzobispado que pide el respeto del derecho a la salud de los ciudadanos de La Oroya ante el inminente inicio de las operaciones de la empresa Doe Run Peru. Por ello, le transmitimos nuestra gran preocupación y pedimos que el gobierno otorgue todas las garantías de seguridad a Monseñor Barreto y a los miembros del equipo Mantaro Revive de Huancayo. Asimismo, exhortamos al gobierno central y a los congresistas peruanos de permitir la reactivación del Complejo Metalúrgico de La Oroya, sólo después del cumplimiento del Programa de Adecuación y Manejo Ambiental (PAMA) que asegure la vida, la salud y un trabajo digno.
You can e-mail the letter to the following people:
Ollanta Humala, President of Peru: email@example.com;
Daniel Abugattas, President of the Congress: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Oscar Valdes, President of the Cabinet of Ministers: email@example.com;
Humberto Ortiz, Secretary General of CEAS: firstname.lastname@example.org
Peru’s Efforts to Require La Oroya Clean Up Should Not Be Chilled by Investment Arbitration
30 Mar 2012
San Francisco, CA – The following is a statement from the international organizations Earthjustice, the Inter-American Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (SPDA), and Public Citizen:
In 1997, Doe Run Peru (DRP), an American company, bought from the government of Peru a metallurgical complex located in La Oroya, Peru. As a condition of the purchase, DRP agreed to comply with a number of environmental requirements aimed at protecting the environment and health of the local population. For 15 years, Doe Run has failed to fulfill these commitments. Now, rather than live up to its responsibilities, DRP and its parent company, the Renco Group, are using questionable legal and political tactics to continue to avoid its commitments—most prominently through an international arbitration case against the State of Peru. In 2011, the Renco Group brought a claim in an international arbitration tribunal for US $800 million against the State of Peru, alleging Peru’s non-compliance with and failure to honor its legal obligations.
However, Peru should not be deterred from its efforts to require the company to clean up La Oroya. Here are just a few of the reasons why:
1. Even if the Peruvian Congress were to grant DRP another PAMA extension, the liability claims in Renco’s arbitration case against Peru would remain because Doe Run’s case against Peru involves more than the PAMA extension contemplated in the proposed law. The Peruvian legislature is currently debating a bill to extend Doe Run’s environmental remediation obligations (known by its Spanish acronym, PAMA) for a third time. The legislature’s Energy and Mining Committee quickly approved the bill. However, policymakers should not presume that Doe Run will drop its arbitration case against Peru if the legislature grants the extension. Indeed, the company is likely to find it advantageous to keep the investment case going (or launch new ones) in order to pressure the government through the international arbitration proceedings.
2. The company is using the investment arbitration to insulate itself from penalties in a case in Missouri courts. In 2007, attorneys filed lawsuits in Missouri (where Doe Run is headquartered) on behalf of children in La Oroya alleged to have experienced serious health problems from exposure to toxic pollution from the smelter in Peru. In a similar case resolved last year regarding harms to 16 children from Missouri, the Missouri court awarded the children US $358 million. In the aforementioned 2007 case about La Oroyain Missouri, DRP has insisted that the Peruvian government—not the company—should be held liable for these tort claims (even though the children are only claiming damages that occurred after Doe Run purchased the smelter). Therefore, the company will likely attempt to keep its international investment arbitration case alive until the Missouri case is resolved, so the Renco Group can use the arbitration to force Peruvian taxpayers to pay any penalty awarded against DRP.
3. The Renco Group is using the arbitration case to move the Missouri case to federal court and evade liability. Doe Run has aggressively tried to derail the Missouri case by insisting that the La Oroyan children’s claims be heard in US federal courts, where it appears Doe Run believes it is more likely to win the case. Twice, the Missouri judge refused to allow the company to do so. After launching the international investment arbitration against Peru, however, Doe Run made a new argument, and convinced the judge to move the La Oroyan children’s case to US federal court, which has jurisdiction over treaty-related claims. The Renco Group has an incentive to keep the international arbitration pending against Peru—regardless of whether the Peruvian legislature extends the PAMA—in order to maintain its argument that the case belongs in federal court.
4. Givingin to the threat of the international investment arbitration would set a bad precedent for Peru and the world. As explained above, DRP is using the investment arbitration to serve many different interests. In each case, the common factor is that the arbitration threatens to make Peru—and Peruvian citizens—responsible for the contamination in La Oroya and any resulting penalties. If Peru responds to this threat by giving DRP special treatment at the expense of the children of La Oroya, it will send a message to DRP and multinational companies around the world that such threats are effective. This will weaken Peru’s ability to protect its interests, including the environment and human rights, in the face of corporate misbehavior.
5. DRP is using false arguments to try to shift the blame to others.In addition to the arbitration claims, DRP has long argued that ActivosMineros—a state-owned firm—should complete its PAMA obligations to remediate soils around the complex. Now DRP is claiming unfair treatment because ActivosMineros has not yet been required to do so. This argument makes no sense. It is well known that cleaned soils will quickly become re-contaminated if nearby smelter pollution continues. In Missouri, the authorities calculated that soils near the Doe Run smelter would be re-contaminated only a few years after Doe Run had remediated them at a cost of millions of dollars. Doe Run is well aware of this, yet argues that Peruvian taxpayers should spend millions of dollars cleaning soils in La Oroyathat would be re-contaminated in mere months if the smelter were to reopen without first installing all necessary pollution controls. This would be a waste of resources and would not solve La Oroya’s health problems. ActivosMineros should indeed remediate the soils. But it makes no sense to do so until either DRP completes installing the control technology it has promised yet failed to deliver for 15 years, or after a decision is made to permanently close.
The government of Peru should take these facts into account and make sure that it does NOT allow Doe Run to pressure it into reopening the complex in La Oroya. The government of Peru needs to ensure it is considering and protecting not only the rights of the workers, the economy of the region, and the health and human rights of the citizens in La Oroya that would be harmed by reopening the complex, but also protecting the national economic interests. Reopening the complex without clarifying the responsibilities for third party claims from cases such as the case pending in Missouri, would be folly and pose a significant economic risk for the nation. This could even result in economic costs for the people of Peru that exceed the benefits obtained from operating the complex.
If the Peruvian legislature believes that it can or should extend the PAMA, it should insist on at least three non-negotiable positions. First, that the Renco Group drop its international arbitration claim. Second, that Doe Run agree that it will assume any liability in Missouri related to contamination stemming from the smelter in La Oroya. Third, that DRP complete all of its environmental requirements—before starting any operation—so that Peru can begin its soil remediation efforts and protect the health and human rights of the children of La Oroya.
Every day that the fate of the La Oroyametallurgical complex remains undecided without a final solution to the contamination, the citizens of La Oroya suffer grave health risks which in turn increase the harms for which both DRP and the government of Peru could be held liable.
Astrid Puentes, AIDA +52-155 23016639, email@example.com
Abby Rubinson, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2047, firstname.lastname@example.org
César Ipenza, Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental, Perú, (+511) 4222720, email@example.com
Todd Tucker, Public Citizen, (202) 454-5105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peruvian Congress Should Not Let Doe Run Pressure it into Granting an Extension in La Oroya
March 30 2012
San Francisco – As the Peruvian legislature debates a bill to extend the US mining company Doe Run Peru’s (DRP) environmental remediation obligations (known by its Spanish acronym, PAMA) for a third time, DRP is using questionable legal tactics to pressure the government of Peru to allow it to reopen its La Oroya smelter before it completes those requirements—including an $800 million dollar demand in an arbitration tribunal. “The Peruvian government must not allow the La Oroya Metallurgical Complex to reopen unless the company has completed its environmental requirements,” declared the international organizations Earthjustice and the Inter-American Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) in a press release on Tuesday.
The Renco Group, parent company of DRP, has lodged a claim in an international arbitration tribunal against the State of Peru for US $800 million– the expected award in a case in Missouri against Renco brought by children poisoned by lead in La Oroya. DRP is demanding that Peru assume liability in that case. In light of this, it is imperative to make clear that even if the Peruvian Congress were to grant DRP another PAMA extension and allow the metallurgical complex to reopen, this would have no impact on Renco’s arbitration claim that Peru pay it US $800 million.
If the Peruvian Congress believes that it could or should grant another PAMA extension, it should insist on at least three non-negotiable points:
• First, that the Renco Group drop its international arbitration claim.
• Second, that Doe Run agree that it will assume any liability in Missouri related to contamination stemming from the smelter in La Oroya.
• Three, that DRP complete all of its environmental requirements—before starting any operation—so that Peru can begin its soil remediation efforts and protect the health and human rights of the children of La Oroya.
“The Peruvian Congress must recognize that no extension of any kind would ensure that the company will drop its claim or will complete its environmental requirements. The $800 million dollar arbitration claim has nothing to do with whether Peru should allow DRP to continue operating the Complex. And the risks to health—and the economy from possible claims against Peru—are too grave for Peru to approve a PAMA extension. If Peru does this, it will be vulnerable to liability arising from future cases brought by third parties for harm suffered in La Oroya,” said Anna Cederstav of Earthjustice and AIDA.
“We cannot continue to be seen as a weak country that cedes to pressure from an irresponsible company….The Peru that we all want is one that ensures compliance with the laws it created as our government, free from any particular interest,” said César Ipenza, of the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (SPDA).
Astrid Puentes, AIDA (+52) 155 23016639, email@example.com
Abby Rubinson, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2047, firstname.lastname@example.org
César Ipenza, Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental, Perú, (+511) 4222720, email@example.com