Peru: police clash with protesting mineral workers
Peruvian National Police clashed June 14 with protesting workers of the troubled US-owned Doe Run Peru metal smelter at La Oroya, Junín region. Police attacked workers who were blocking roads, paralyzing traffic throughout the central city of La Oroya and the surrounding area. Schools and businesses remain closed in solidarity with the strike, as most La Oroya residents work for Doe Run, which suspended operations last year amid severe financial problems and the firm's failure to comply with a government-mandated clean-up program.
The minister of energy and mines, Pedro Sanchez, told RPP radio that La Oroya smelter will be closed for good July 24 and Doe Run's charter revoked unless the company meets the government's conditions for resuming operations, calling the deadline "irrevocable." Doe Run, a subsidiary of the New York-based Renco Group, idled the smelter a year ago while asking the government for more flexibility on environmental obligations. Idled workers have pressured both the government and Doe Run to come to an agreement that would restart operations. But President Alan García accused the company of attempting to blackmail the government by inciting worker protests.
The 82-year-old smelter is equipped to process copper, lead, zinc and smaller amounts of gold, silver and other metals. Doe Run acquired it from state-owned Centromin in 1997, agreeing to build three sulfuric acid treatment plants to lower toxic emissions. The treatment plants have still not been built, and La Oroya is considered one of the most polluted locales in the hemisphere. (CNR, LAHT, AP, Metal Bulletin, June 15)