MAC: Mines and Communities

Urgent Action on La Oroya

Published by MAC on 2005-11-28

Urgent Action on La Oroya

28th November 2005


Everything indicates that December will be a crucial month for La Oroya, one of the most contaminated places in Latin America, due to metallic mining activities in the region.

In December 2004, the Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) issued Supreme Decree 046-EM, which gives metal mining companies a time frame (ending this month) to request deferments in meeting the guidelines specified in the Environmental Standards and Management Program (PAMA).

Apparently, the US mining company, Doe Run - which controls the smelting complex of La Oroya, will be the only company to present a request for postponement of it´s PAMA obligations. For this reason, we say that the decree should be dubbed "the Doe Run Decree": it was issued only to help Doe Run.

For this reason we have initiated a campaign called "Shower of Letters", to put pressure on national officials and to prevent the relaxation of laws that, in reality, will mean tens of thousands of residents in the region continuing to be exposed to contamination by heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, etc.

We ask for your support and assistance in writing these letters.

Thank you,
José De Echave
Cooperacción, Perú

How can Marco become a great doctor if he has lead poisoning?

Stop lead Oroya, Peru. children in and poisoning women of pregnant La 5 5Marco [1] dreams of becoming a doctor someday. The only problem is that 99.9% of the children tested in his hometown of La Oroya, Peru have excessive lead levels, according to a recent Government study [2] and Marco has 5 times the maximum permissible level. Lead poisoning can cause learning problems, retarded growth, hyperactivity, kidney and liver disease, and neurological problems that are the stuff of nightmares for parents everywhere [3]. In La Oroya, the lead levels are so high that many children are born with lead poisoning, which is transmitted from mother to child through the placenta during pregnancy.

Marco’s hometown is the site of a large metal smelter owned by the Doe Run Company of St. Louis, Missouri. Each day, the smelter puts out more than 1000 tons of toxic emissions over the city. When Doe Run purchased the smelter in 1997, it promised to clean things up by January 2007, and the Peruvian Government approved the sale based on the Company’s promise. But now the Company has announced that it will not keep its promise and is threatening to close down the smelter if the Government does not provide it with a 5 year extension-- despite extremely favorable mineral prices [4].

Your letter can make a difference. In early December, the Movement for Health in La Oroya-a local group of parents, teachers, church members, and neighborhood and Chamber of Commerce representatives-will be presenting 10,000 letters to Glodomiro Sánchez, the Peruvian Minister of Energy and Mining, who will decide whether to hold Doe Run to its legal commitment…or permit five more years of polluting Marco´s town with impunity. Your letter, together with thousands of others, will show that the eyes of the world are focused on this decision and that Marco´s dreams need to be taken into account, too. A sample letter is attached.

Would you be willing to take 5 minutes and send a letter to Mr. Sánchez, respectfully requesting that the health of La Oroya’s children be ignored no longer? Please send your letter before December 12 by e-mail, in care of: . We will deliver your letter to Minister Sánchez in December, together with the thousands of others.

1. Not his real name. His identity has been concealed to prevent possible reprisals.
2. Study Results, “Blood Lead Study”, DIGESA-DRP, Nov 2004- Jan 2005, p. 12.
3. “Surveillance for Elevated Blood Lead Levels among Children—U.S. 1997-2001”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 2003.
4. for the metals Doe Run processes in Oroya. Boletín Actualidad Minera del Perú, No. 59, March 2004.

Because Marco’s dreams are worth more than gold.

Campaign Organized by the Movement for Health of La Oroya and its Technical Roundtable: The Catholic Parish of La Oroya, The Neighborhood Committees, The Old La Oroya Defense Committee, The People’s Assembly, The Old La Oroya Chamber of Commerce, The Filomena Tomaira Pacsi Association, Cooperacción, LABOR, ANDES, and Joining Hands Against Hunger Network.

Sample Letter: - Please send your letter (or cut and paste this one) into an e-mail message and send to BY DECEMBER 12:

Mr. Glodomiro Sánchez
Ministry of Energy and Mines
Republic of Peru

November 28, 2005

Dear Minister Sánchez,

I write to express my concern about the critical health situation of children and expectant mothers in La Oroya. I understand that you have the authority to hold the Doe Run Company of St. Louis, Missouri to its legal obligation to respect Peruvian environmental legislation.

On three separate occasions, the Doe Run Company has sought and won permission to postpone the critically-needed environmental improvements which would have improved the population’s health. Now the Company is threatening to close down if it is not granted a five year extension.

The Peruvian Health Ministry’s recent lead study showed that 99.9% of La Oroya’s children have lead poisoning, and both the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Lima’s El Comercio newspapers have challenged the Peruvian Government to fulfill its constitutional role of safeguarding the life and health of La Oroya’s population.

I urge you to protect the health of La Oroya’s people by not approving an extension for Doe Run’s Environmental Management and Pollution Mitigation Agreement (PAMA in Spanish).


complete address
City, State, Country
(Peruvian citizens, please include D.N.I. number)

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