MAC: Mines and Communities

Peru: mercury poisoning, civil strife, and a polluting plant...

Published by MAC on 2013-04-01
Source: Mining.com (2013-03-25)

A sorry business all round

A new analysis of mercury contamination in fish and humans in the Peruvian jungle, has found unsafe levels of the toxic metal in almost 80% of adults and 60% of fish sold at local markets.

The study puts the blame is put on "illegal" smallscale gold miners who are accused of posing a "grave and mounting threat to public health". See: Mercury poisoning and the gold curse

Peru's latest ombudsman report shows that 26 of the 150 "active social conflicts" in the country are in Áncash region, eight of which relate to Xstrata and BHP Billiton's Antamina copper mine. See: Peruvian government's response to protests "disportionate" - IACHR

The board of creditors of Doe Run Perú, former operator of the highly polluting La Oroya metallurgical complex in Peru's Junín region, and the administrator in charge of its liquidation, are set to "re-evaluate" the sale of  the plant on April 12 2013.

Will this will see the end of the whole sorry affair? See: Doe Run, déjà vu?

Mercury pollution linked to illegal gold mining in Peru reaches lethal levels

Cecilia Jamasmie

Mining.com

25 March 2013

new study of mercury contamination in fish and humans in the Peruvian jungle, highly troubled by illegal gold mining, found unsafe levels of the toxic metal in almost 80% of adults and 60% of fish sold at local markets.

The analysis, conducted in Peru's southeastern region of Madre de Dios by the Carnegie Institution for Science, concludes the scope and intensity of mercury contamination by illegal gold diggers there is a "grave and mounting threat to public health."

For almost two years the Peruvian government has been trying to tighten the screws on illegal mining, while scientists monitoring its impacts are on the front lines of a seemingly ongoing battle between miners, environmental activists and the authorities.

In February last year, Peru's mining ministry banned mining in Madre de Dios outside a designated 500,000-hectare corridor and ordered all miners to register by April 2014.

The process, for which the original deadline was in March this year but then had to be extended, requires miners to produce a work plan, as well as an environmental impact assessment and a clean-up strategy, among other requirements.

The plan has not been totally welcome by the artisanal miners, triggering fresh protests across the country that have already cost the lives of two people this month. In March last year, three people died as police clashed with federation-organized protests involving about 15,000 people. The government began raiding mining camps outside the corridor, but in many of those areas miners have since returned to work.

Illegal gold production in the South American nation has, in fact, increased fivefold in the last six years and is estimated to provide 100,000 direct jobs in the country with an estimated 40,000 of them in the Madre de Dios region.

According to Peru's ministry of environment, the activity has destroyed 18,000 hectares of Amazon so far, mainly due to the use of mercury, a by-product of artisanal gold mining.

In discussing the overall human impact, Carnegie's study warns the population segment most vulnerable to mercury poisoning had the highest average mercury levels: women of childbearing age. As a neurotoxin, mercury can cause severe, permanent brain damage to an unborn child.

Peru is the world's fifth largest gold producer.


Peru's Áncash region sees most social conflicts, eight relating to Antamina

By Tiffany Grabski

BN Americas

28 March 2013

Peru's latest ombudsman report shows that 26 of the 150 active social conflicts in the country are in Áncash region, eight of which are related to Xstrata and BHP Billiton's Antamina copper mine.

A total of 17 involve mining companies, with Canadian gold giant Barrick Gold being the only other miner related to more than one conflict, with four in total, according to the report. Barrick's only operation in the region is its Pierina mine.

Áncash also has the third largest area of mining concessions, with 1.79Mha accounting for 49.2% of the region's total land, according to the latest reports by NGO CooperAcción.

Projects

Of Peru's US$54.7bn mining project portfolio, Áncash looks to capture a relatively small proportion of investment.

According to the mines and energy ministry's (MEM) latest report, projects in Áncash region represent 1.44% of the total mining pipeline, worth US$790mn, putting the region behind nine others.

Investments include Peruvian miner Milpo's US$300mn Hilarión zinc project and its US$600mn Magistral copper project, due to come on stream in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

Áncash region is the second largest mineral exporter in Peru, with nearly US$4bn last year, and it also received the highest amount of mining canon payments in 2012.

Mining concessions accounted for 19.2% of Peru's total land mass as of November 2012.


La Oroya sale under review

By Tiffany Grabski

BN Americas

26 March 2013

The board of creditors of Doe Run Perú, the former operator of the La Oroya metallurgical complex in Peru's Junín region, and the administrator in charge of its liquidation, Right Business, will re-evaluate the sale of La Oroya in a meeting on April 12, a Doe Run Perú representative told BNamericas.

The sale was suspended in order to reconsider the restructuring of the company, according to local PR company Community, in charge of public relations for La Oroya's workers union.

"The suspension [of the sale] is not official," the Doe Run representative told BNamericas.

Community representative Paulete Manrique told BNamericas that more than 60mn soles (US$23.2mn) is still owed to some 3,000 workers at La Oroya, raising concerns amongst the workers that the sale's suspension could mean they will not receive the money they are due.

Operations came to a halt at La Oroya in 2009 when Doe Run Perú declared bankruptcy. In April last year, the group of creditors in charge of deciding the future of La Oroya rejected a restructuring plan presented by the company, later approving Right Business' proposal to sell the complex on August 27.

The zinc processing circuit at the La Oroya complex was restarted in July following a three-year shutdown after Right Business, the creditors and workers were able to reach an initial agreement. The lead circuit has since also been restarted, reaching full production in January 2013.

Built in 1922 by the Cerro de Pasco Corporation and acquired in 1997 in a privatization process by St Louis-based Doe Run, the plant is known for having caused serious lead contamination around La Oroya, and is under constant surveillance for lead contamination.

La Oroya has the capacity to produce 11 different metals, but mainly copper, zinc, lead and silver.

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