MAC: Mines and Communities

Perú Government Urged to Not Extend Environmental Cleanup Plan of US Mining Company

Published by MAC on 2006-02-10

Perú Government Urged to Not Extend Environmental Cleanup Plan of US Mining Company

10th February 2006

LIMA -- A community committee for the health of the inhabitants of La Oroya, where US mining company Doe Run is currently operating, urged the government Friday to not award an extension to the time frame given to the company to carry out the cleanup of contamination in the region.

Non-governmental organizations blame the company for the intense contamination in the air breathed by over 30,000 residents of La Oroya, in the central Andes of Perú. "The government cannot accept a delay in Doe Run´s time frame for compliance with the plan for environmental standards and management," said lawyer Carlos Chirino, from the technical component of the movement for public health in La Oroya.

The government gave the company until 2006 to carry out the plan, which includes improvement of mechanisms to reduce pollution, but the company has asked for an extension until 2010 to carry out the cleanup.

The Ministry of Energy plans to respond to Doe Run on February 17, and the company will have until May to respond to any objections of the government, after which the State will make a final decision.

Doe Run has argued that the extension of the plan will permit them to construct a plant to reduce emissions of sulfuric acid through operating a costly plant, the final point of eight other changes which have already been carried out to lower contamination.

If it does not award the extension, the government could decide to prohibit the company from operating in the zone. But, according to José de Echeve, also of the technical team, if the company leaves due to failure to comply, this would mean the plant could be awarded to another company which wants to operate it under norms of environmental control. "It could be very profitable for other companies who are interested in operating the plant, taking advantage of the resources and operating under norms of environmental protection," he said. He further indicated that although Doe Run has complied with 8 of the nine points to carry out the reduction of pollution, "the most important is the creation of a plant for treatment of sulfuric acid," whose construction could lag for years.

The mayor of La Oroya, Clemente Quincho, announced Thursday that a preventative strike would be carried out in the mining zone on February 15, to pressure the government to award the extension to Doe Run and safeguard the jobs of the employees. Various scientific studies carried out by the company, by the government of Perú, and recently by the University of St. Louis in the USA, have detected elevated levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium and other toxic heavy metals in the bodies of residents of La Oroya, above all in children.

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