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PERU
Another license to pollute
9/30/2009
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Congress grants Doe Run Peru 30 more months to complete environmental overhaul.

Peru´s Congress granted Doe Run Peru a 30-month extension to complete an environmental overhaul at its aging smelter in the country´s central Andes, finally ending a conflict that left thousands out of work, and little improvements to the contaminated town where the plant is located.

The overwhelming vote on Sept. 24 – with 85 of 120 lawmakers voting in favor – was the second extension granted to the company, a unit of US company The Renco Group Inc., to clean up the smelter in La Oroya, widely considered one of the most polluted towns in the world.

Earlier this year, Doe Run Peru´s suppliers stopped giving it concentrates when it failed to capitalize loans. Banks cut off its credit lines, and in June, it shut down activities in the smelter, La Oyora´s top source of employment.

More than 3,000 workers are employed at the polymetallic smelter and thousands of others depend on the plant economically for other jobs.

But the Peruvian company, an affiliate of US mining company Doe Run, pleaded with the government for an extension beyond the Oct. 31 deadline to complete the environmental upgrade, which included the construction of a sulfuric acid plant. The upgrade is estimated to cost over $100 million, but the cash-strapped company said it lacked the time and funds to complete the overhaul by the deadline.

In 2006, Peru´s government granted the company a three-year extension to finish the upgrade.

The plant´s workers protested a solution to the three-month standoff over the issue, complaining neither the government, which first said the company would face being expelled from the country if it failed to comply with the deadline, nor the company was taking their livelihoods seriously enough to reach a solution fast enough.

Protests grew violent ahead of the vote, and one police officer was killed from a blow to the head with a rock. Peru´s government said Doe Run Peru could face charges for allegedly inciting the protests.

While many jobs were on the line, the community´s health has not been a central part of the debate over whether to grant the extension.

Studies by the company, Peru´s government and the St. Louis University School of Public Health have detected elevated levels of heavy metals, such as lead, in town residents, particularly children, that far surpass World Health Organization standards.
–Latinamerica Press.


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