lunes, 1 de mayo de 2017

Peru's plans to cut air quality rules would smooth sale of major polluter

It’s a fairly common tactic in Peru to issue a significant or potentially controversial decision or resolution when you hope no one is paying attention. 24, 26 or 31 December, for example. The Environment Ministry (MINAM) recently adopted that ploy by releasing, just before the Easter week holiday, proposals to dramatically roll back certain air quality standards across the country.

The draft National Environmental Quality Standards for Air propose maintaining the maximum legal limits for nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide, lead and benzene, but doubling the limit for some particulate matter. Most startling, they propose increasing the limit of sulfur dioxide by more than 12 times.

MINAM effectively claims that Peru is the global leader in sulfur dioxide limits because it is the “only country in the world” which meets World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations. That limit is 20 micrograms per cubic metre over a 24 hour averaging period, compared with 210 in Australia, 250 in Chile and Colombia, 288 in Mexico, 300 in Canada and 365 in Brazil, according to the ministry. Elsewhere in the world - although these are not acknowledged by MINAM - the limit is 150 in China, 125 in the EU, 131 in South Korea and 80 in India.

The current proposal is to raise Peru’s limit to 250. One justification is that “no clearly defined link exists” between sulfur dioxide and negative impacts on human health, MINAM claims, according to its interpretation of research by the WHO, the US’s Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada, among others.

Further justifications are that no other country in the world has a limit as stringent as 20 and adopting it was a mistake out of touch with “national reality.” It isn’t being complied with, the ministry argues, and therefore undermines the public’s faith in government and the law.

“[The 20 limit] was adopted in a very short timeframe without a solid technical and economic argument and without considering sustainable development policy that involves taking acceptable risks to public health while at the same time introducing effective strategies to reduce environmental contamination,” MINAM states.

The ministry’s proposals have met with serious concern and criticism from Peru’s Congressional Commission on the Environment, Ecology and Andean, Amazonian and Afroperuvian Peoples, NGOs, and many others. Lima-based APRODEH and the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) say that MINAM is ignoring scientific evidence of the “serious health harms” caused by both sulfur dioxide and particulate matter. These include lung problems and premature death - with children, the elderly and people with asthma being particularly vulnerable.

“There is overwhelming scientific evidence to conclude that sulfur dioxide pollution poses a serious health risk, particularly when the contamination reaches high levels over short periods of time, something the proposal does not take into account,” says AIDA’s co-director Anna Cederstav in a joint statement with APRODEH.

Both organisations argue that MINAM’s proposals violate the American Convention on Human Rights and other international treaties binding on Peru. In addition, the public consultation was “flawed”, they state, with too little time for discussion and the scientific basis for the proposals not made public.

That opinion is shared by the Congressional Commission on the Environment, which has written to Environment minister Elsa Galarza requesting a further 30 days for the public consultation process. The Commission is presided by Maria Elena Foronda, who has taken the lead in drawing public attention to the issue.

“In the Commission’s view any law that would reduce environmental quality standards requires a responsible and timely technical evaluation, as much by members of congress as civil society,” Foronda says. “It’s appropriate to point out that MINAM is trying to establish parameters that are weaker than those recommended by the WHO.”

Other NGOs like Red Muqui and the Sociedad Peruana de Desarrollo Ambiental (SPDA) have also issued critical statements. SPDA argues that the government is legally prohibited from weakening environmental standards, that MINAM failed to provide sufficient justification for its proposals, and that the WHO, contrary to the ministry’s interpretations of its research, has proved that sulfur dioxide negatively impacts human health.

According to Red Muqui, a collective of 29 organisations across Peru, the proposals are “regressive” and ignore WHO recommendations. MINAM failed to coordinate with the Health Ministry, they argue, and the timeframe for public discussion was too short.

“Life and health shouldn’t be dependent on economic interests,” Red Muqui states. “[The proposals] fail to consider that particulate matter is very fine and can easily penetrate respiratory tracts and blood, increasing the risk of morbidity and premature death following short- and long-term exposure.”

Former high-ranking MINAM personnel are critical too. Ex-Environment minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal was quoted in El Comercio newspaper saying the proposals would reduce air quality. Mariano Castro, former vice-minister, told the Guardian the proposals are “wrong”, “very risky” for Peruvians’ health, and ignore the “scientific evidence in epidemiological and toxicological studies that show the serious dangers that sulfur dioxide poses for peoples’ health.”

So why propose raising the legal limits? According to AIDA, APRODEH and anyone else following the issue, the answer is an infamous poly-metal smelter in a town in Peru’s central Andes, La Oroya, which 10 years ago was named as one of the top 10 most polluted places on earth by the US-based Blacksmith Institute.

Formally called the Metallurgical Complex of La Oroya, the smelter has been the property of Doe Run Peru, a subsidiary of the US Renco Group’s Doe Run company, since 1997. It closed in 2009 and partially re-opened in 2012. Now it is administered by liquidators - and Peru’s sulfur dioxide limits are reported to be scaring off potential investors.

This is despite the fact that La Oroya has been exempted from the national 20 limit. In recent years it was raised to 80 and then to 365 for a 14 year period until it is scheduled to revert to 80 again, according to APRODEH’s Christian Huaylinos. He told the Guardian that MINAM’s proposals are “completely connected” to the proposed Doe Run Peru sale.

“[In the long-term the limit] continues being 80, which is a very demanding standard that I imagine has discouraged possible bidders for Doe Run Peru, given that it would require serious investment in new technology,” Huaylinos says. “So that’s where the issue of relaxing the standards comes in. Now they would no longer have to adjust from 365 to 80, but 365 to 250.”

Tenders have been held for Doe Run as recently as March this year, but no offers were reportedly received. “Now, given the lack of offers, MINAM has put forward a law to relax the limits, the aim of which is to facilitate the next tender round,” Huaylinos told the Guardian. “[This would seriously affect] the rights to health and clean environment of the people living in La Oroya.”

The connection between MINAM’s proposals and Doe Run Peru also seems obvious to AIDA’s Victor Quintanilla, who told the Guardian that government representatives have said publicly that modifying environmental standards is part of promoting the smelter’s sale and re-opening. Such representatives include president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, congressman Moisés Guía Pianto, Environment minister Galarza, and Energy and Mines minister Gonzalo Tamayo.

On Friday Gestion newspaper stated that potential bidders for Doe Run Peru have been lobbying for changes to the sulfur dioxide limits - something that the Congressional Commission on the Environment has noted too. Pablo Peschiera, from DIRIGE, the liquidators, reportedly said that the next tenders will be held in July and MINAM’s proposals would save investors huge sums.

“Under the previous [current] standards an investment of US$788 million [in the smelter] had been foreseen, and even then there was no guarantee of meeting the 80 standard,” Peschiera was quoted as saying in Gestion. “There was a low probability of complying even after making that investment. Now [if MINAM’s proposals are approved], with the limit being 250, the amount needed to invest will be lower.”

Liliana Carhuaz, an Oroya resident and member of the Movimiento por la Salud de La Oroya (MOSAO), told the Guardian she rejects MINAM’s proposals and believes the sulfur dioxide limit should be 20. She said that local people didn’t agree with the suggested changes either, and she cited respiratory problems and lead poisoning as ongoing health impacts.

“After so many years of contamination in La Oroya [the ministry’s proposal] to increase the permitted levels is not just,” she says.

Last year, just before the end of the previous government, MINAM published a dossier on Doe Run which included six reasons why air quality standards shouldn’t be weakened, although it acknowledged that the contamination in La Oroya was so severe that it would be impossible for the smelter to ever meet any standards, no matter how “flexible.” The dossier cited Health Ministry statistics from 2007 saying that during some hours the sulfur dioxide levels reached 28,300 and average daily emissions were over 2,000 - which MINAM alleged was one of the reasons why Doe Run Peru hadn’t yet been sold.

“It’s clear that with daily emissions and yearly averages such as these, La Oroya, if its copper circuit is working, wouldn’t even comply with the most flexible environmental standards in the world,” stated the dossier, dated July 2016.

According to AIDA’s and APRODEH’s interpretation of recent research by Yale University, the registered level of sulfur dioxide over an average hour in La Oroya has “almost always” reached 1,000 and “very often” 2,000 or more.

“With the new proposed daily average (250 micrograms per cubic metre), it would be possible to have every day a period of two hours of contamination at a level of 1,500 and another five hours of contamination at 500 without exceeding it,” stated AIDA and APRODEH in comments sent to MINAM as part of the public consultation process. “However, it is known that these levels of contamination are severely dangerous to human health.”

Mariano Castro believes that this is a key weakness of MINAM’s proposals: there are no limits for short periods of time - just one hour or three hours - which would prohibit serious peaks in contamination. In Colombia, he says, the limit for 24 hours is 250, as proposed for Peru, but crucially there is also a limit for three hours set at 750.

“Without this [750] limit on short-term peaks, you could get up to levels around 2,000 for several hours over a 24 hour period and never exceed the daily limit,” Castro told the Guardian. “The dangers to human health and the environment would be irreversible. Under no condition should an increase in the 24 hour limit be permitted if an appropriate limit for just one hour is not established, as in other countries.”

Fernando Serrano, a scientist at Saint Louis University in the US who has conducted research in La Oroya and testified before US Congress about it, agrees with Castro. “The proposed new air standards for sulfur dioxide don’t include a hourly standard and therefore don’t hold the smelter responsible for the hourly peaks that are far greater than anything that is acceptable,” he says. “The most effective way to protect people’s health and environmental quality is to reduce smelter emissions through technical measures and to enact and enforce air quality standards and other regulations that prevent health and environmental risks.”

Serrano describes the La Oroya smelter as for years “serving a toxic cocktail of metals” including lead, cadmium, arsenic and air pollutants like sulfur dioxide. “This mix of contaminants has gravely affected the health of the people of La Oroya and surrounding areas,” he told the Guardian. “The only time people enjoyed a cleaner and safer environment - low sulfur dioxide levels, decreasing blood lead levels - is when the smelter closed, which shows that it is the primary source of contamination.”

The appalling health impacts of the smelter on La Oroya’s inhabitants have been reported for many years, with the government concluding almost two decades ago that more than 99% of children living nearby suffered from lead poisoning. A series of legal actions have been taken against the Health Ministry in Peru, against the Peruvian state at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and against Doe Run in the US.

Peru’s Congressional Commission on the Environment is scheduled to discuss MINAM’s proposals tomorrow, 2 May, and has requested Environment minister Galarza to attend.

MINAM did not respond to questions.

viernes, 21 de abril de 2017

Autorizan ingreso de las FF.AA. a Madre de Dios para luchar contra minería ilegal

Por la Resolución Suprema suscrita por los ministros del Interior, Carlos Basombrío y de Defensa, Jorge Nieto, el Gobierno Central autorizó el ingreso de las Fuerzas Armadas (FF.AA) a la región de Madre de Dios para apoyar a la Policía Nacional en su lucha contra la minería ilegal.

La autorización busca que las fuerzas militares brinden apoyo a los efectivos policiales frente a las movilizaciones que los mineros ilegales han anunciado para los próximos días. El permiso será por 30 días desde hoy viernes 21 de abril.

En la resolución se explica que en todo momento será la Policía Nacional la responsable de mantener el control del orden interno en Madre de Dios, agregando que la presencia de las FF.AA. será solo de apoyo.

“La actuación de las FF.AA. estará dirigida a contribuir y garantizar la plena vigencia del derecho a la libertad y seguridad personales, a la libertad de tránsito por las vías y carreteras (…), facilitando de este modo que los efectivos de la Policía Nacional concentren su accionar en el control del orden público”, señala la resolución publicada en El Peruano

domingo, 9 de abril de 2017

Peru wants to sell dirty smelter but has to lower air standards

La Oroya - Peru's La Oroya polymetallic smelting plant has been for sale since the company who owned it went bankrupt in 2009. So Peru is proposing to loosen air quality standards in some parts of the country to attract buyers, despite the plant's dirty past.

The decision by the Andean country's Environment Ministry late Saturday is actually nothing new. In January 2017, a proposed auction of the La Oroya smelter, supported by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, drew the interest of five companies.

But the interested parties were turned off by Peru's air quality standards. At the time, the prospective buyers were aware of the possibility of changes to the regulations and decided to hold off on bidding until they could see for themselves what would come of the new standards.

However, according to Reuters, the government's new proposal is serious and would include changing several parts of the country's environmental quality standards, including raising the sulfur dioxide emission limit to levels in line with other countries in the region including Chile, Colombia, and Mexico.

The country is desperate to sell the plant, as well as a small copper mine. The government is planning a new series of auctions before an August deadline for selling the facility. The proposed standards have been pre-published and are now open for a 10-day public comment period.

Of course, the proposed standards change does not mention the need to sell the smelter, but to some environmentalists, it looks like Peru is putting the environment second over economic growth, something President Trump has done in the United States.

Pollution problems with the La Oroya smelter

La Oroya was bought by Doe Run, (whose parent company was The Renco Group, Inc.), in 1997 for US$247 million. The company also bought a small copper mine, the Cobriza copper mine, south of La Oroya, for US$7.5 million. Until Doe Run took bankruptcy in 2009, they owned 99.97 percent of La Oroya.

La Oroya was made up of a copper and lead smelter and zinc refinery. The plant also dealt with 'dirty concentrates' produced by a number of local mines They included gold and silver, antimony, arsenic trioxide, bismuth, cadmium, indium, selenium, tellurium, sulfuric acid, and oleum.

Under the leadership of its coordinator, Congressman Casio Huaire Chuquichaico, the Junin Parliamentary Group held a meeting in which legislators expressed concerns about the Doe Run case affecting the population of La Oroya and the modernization of the Jauja airport. (Translation by Google Translate). Congreso de la República del Perú

Problems started right away with Doe Run. Until their purchase of the company, La Oroya had been run without any concern for the environment, and consequently, the landscape around the plant looked like a moonscape because of the sulfur dioxide residues.

Doe Run signed an environmental contract with the government that gave them 10 years to install remediation measures to curb emissions from gasses, particulates, and polluted water and clean up around the smelter and its waste dumps. Well, it never happened.

jueves, 30 de marzo de 2017

EE.UU., puerto final del oro ilegal peruano




El encarcelamiento de dos peruanos, acusados de lavado de activos, fue el inicio de una extensa y complicada red de comercio de oro ilegal cuyo principal comprador es una empresa metalúrgica de EE.UU.

Las capturas de Pablo Granda y Pedro David Pérez Miranda pusieron en evidencia una red de minería ilegalcuyo principal comprador está a kilómetros, en EE.UU.

El Departamento de Seguridad estadounidense inició una investigación penal por compra de oro ilegal contra Northern Texas Refinery (NTR) explica a RT el periodista peruano Oscar Castilla, quien ha desarrollado una extensa investigación sobre la minería ilegal en su país.

Según los fiscales estadounidenses, trabajadores de NTR, entre los que se encontraba Granda, compraban oro, procedente de la Amazonía peruana, a minas ilegales, reseña 'Gestión' citando a Bloomberg.

El proceso revela además que la oficina de NTR en Miami presuntamente lavó miles de millones de dólares de las mafias que controlaban las minas, donde además hay trata de personas, daños ambientales y esclavización moderna.

"Soy como Pablo (Escobar) yendo a Ecuador para conseguir la coca“.
Pablo Granda, encarcelado por acusación de lavado de activos.

Debido a los movimientos y registro en la aduana estadounidense, el Departamento de Seguridad y el FBI consideran que hay "fuertes indicios" de que NTR inició sus operaciones en Perú en 2012.

La demanda contra esa empresa metalúrgica arroja que el contrabando de oro ilegal en varios países mineros de América Latina fue de 3.600 millones de dólares de 2012 a 2015.

"Por todos los miles de millones de dólares enviados desde América Latina a NTR en Miami, NTR envió miles de millones de dólares en pagos electrónicos a América Latina desde Estados Unidos", escribió Colberd Almeida, del Departamento de Seguridad, en una declaración jurada del 10 de marzo.

NTR ha cambiado de nombre y ha dejado de operar en Perú, agregó Castilla.

Los tentáculos latinoamericanos

Los nombres de Pablo Granda y Pedro David Pérez Miranda saltaron al ámbito noticioso al conocerse las investigaciones que se les habían abierto y sus condenas a la cárcel por su relación con el enriquecimiento ilícito producto de la minería ilegal. Uno de los principales operadores de NTR en Perú era Granda, según Castilla.

Un helicóptero patrulla durante una operación policial para destruir campos ilegales de extracción de oro en La Pampa, en Madre de Dios.Stringer PeruReuters

Granda fue detenido el 10 de marzo en Miami bajo la acusación de lavado de dinero en EE.UU., reseña 'Perú 21'. Este hombre de 35 años, debe demostrar ante la aduana la información falsa que proporcionó, en la que declaraba el oro en su poder como 'no refinado', lo que disminuía el valor en 50%.

Según la investigación, se alió a dos vendedores de NTR y otras personas que sabían del tipo de negocio irregular que llevaba a cabo.

"Crimen organizado, contrabando de oro e ingreso de mercancías en EE.UU. por medios y declaraciones falsas, minería ilegal, y narcotráfico", escribió Almeida citado por Bloomberg.

Las pesquisas policiales arrojan que Granda trabajaba directamente en las selvas de América del Sur, donde operan la minería ilegal y sus mafias.

El 'Pablo Escobar moderno'

Granda se autodenominó como el 'Pablo Escobar moderno', según la información cifrada hallada en los mensajes de un chat de celular que tenía con sus cómplices.

"Soy como Pablo [Escobar] yendo a Ecuador para conseguir la coca", recoge su expediente judicial y cita 'El Comercio'.

Perú: La política, bañada de oro ilegal

Entre las comunicaciones también hallaron comentarios y fotos sobre sus 'mulas' de oro, que correspondían a jóvenes que transportaban el metal precioso en mochilas.

La forma de captación de los potenciales clientes se basaba en relaciones, visitas a NTR para ver las instalaciones y promesas de obtención del oro en menos tiempo que otras refinerías, arrojó la causa penal.

Posteriormente se hacía el comercio ilegal a través de muchas empresas falsas que exportaban el oro en pequeñas cantidades a una corporación más grande.

'Peter Ferrari'

Tras la detención de Granda, se hallaron evidencias que vinculaban a Pedro David Pérez Miranda, alias 'Peter Ferrari' con el contrabando de oro proveniente de Madre de Dios, en la Amazonía peruana.

Pérez Miranda, capturado el pasado 4 de enero por fuerzas policiales en Lima, es investigado por "presuntamente haber exportado de forma ilegal 14 toneladas de oro valorizadas en más de 660 millones de dólares" recoge 'Perú 21'.

En la amplia residencia de 'Peter Ferrari' encontraron ocho autos de lujo y armas de fuego. Además se hizo un allanamiento de 10 propiedades que presuntamente le pertenecían. La captura se realizó por orden de la Fiscalía de Lavado de Activos y Pérdida de Dominio peruana.

Oficiales de la policía peruana participan en una operación para destruir campos ilegales de extracción de oroJanine CostaReuters

Tras la pista

En mayo de 2014 la justicia peruana abrió la investigación contra 'Peter Ferrari' por lavado de activos, pues se detectó que empresas relacionadas con él habían exportado ilegalmente a compañías estadounidenses "más de 14 toneladas de oro por un valor de 660 millones de dólares, según consta en la Carpeta Fiscal Nº01-2014", informa 'Perú 21'.

Estas exportaciones se hicieron entre 2012 y 2013 a través de empresas falsas, a nombre de testaferros.

Luego de meses de pesquisa, la fiscalía estableció que 'Peter Ferrari' era "el presunto financista y cabecilla de una organización criminal dedicada a la exportación de mineral aurífero procedente de la minería ilegal" según 'Perú 21'.

El oro salía ilegalmente de Perú, y se distribuía a través de empresas falsas hasta llegar a EE.UU.Pexels / Pixabay

El registro de la Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera y la Superintendencia Aduanera y Tributaria peruanas arrojó que la empresa Minerales La Mano de Dios, relacionada con Pérez Miranda, a través de testaferros y familiares, realizó "39 operaciones de exportación por 2,1 toneladas de oro por un valor de 107,5 millones de dólares" a NTR.

Además, la empresa Minerals Gold MPP SAC, relacionada también con Pérez Miranda, tuvo 40 operaciones de exportación de oro por 2,9 toneladas por 138 millones de dólares importadas por NTR.

Pérez Mirada ya había sido encarcelado en 1998 por lavado de dinero producto del narcotráfico. Después de cinco años de prisión fue liberado.

"El agua le ganó al oro": El Salvador prohíbe la minería metálica






El Congreso aprueba una ley que prohíbe las actividades de exploración, extracción, explotación y procesamiento, ya sea a cielo abierto o subterráneo

El país más pequeño de Centroamérica, El Salvador,aprobó este miércoles una ley que prohíbe la minería metálica, al considerar que es una industria que crea impactos negativos sobre el medio ambiente y la salud de las personas. "Hoy es un día histórico para El Salvador. Es un día histórico para el mundo entero",aseguró la ministra de Medio Ambiente, Lina Pohl, tras la votación.  

La nueva ley, aprobada con el voto de 69 de los 84 diputados, prohíbe las actividades de exploración, extracción, explotación y procesamiento, ya sea a cielo abierto o subterráneo. Además, pone fin a la utilización de químicos tóxicos, como el cianuro y el mercurio, en cualquier proceso de minería metálica.

Una medida para asegurar los recursos de agua

"Es un día importante para el país porque aprobamos la ley. La ley no es cualquier ley. Esta normativa está bañada con sangre", aseguró el presidente de la Comisión de Medio Ambiente y Cambio Climático, el diputado Guillermo Mata (FMLN), en referencia a todos los ciudadanos que "fueron asesinados por luchar contra la minería metálica, por defender el medio ambiente" y que denunciaron "que la minería era una industria de lucro que no beneficiaba a El Salvador".


Según datos de la ONU, el nivel de contaminación medioambiental en el país es uno de los más elevados de la región y la disponibilidad de agua potable es muy baja. "Hoy hemos visto más allá de los intereses partidarios, y tomamos una decisión unánime para asegurar las fuentes del agua. Es deber del Estado proteger los recursos naturales para garantizar el desarrollo sostenible del medio ambiente", afirmó el diputado John Wright Sol (ARENA), que subrayó: "¡Este día el agua le ganó al oro!"

La normativa se ha aprobado a pesar del interés en el oro y la plata de las mineras multinacionales. De hecho, el pasado mes de octubre, un tribunal de arbitraje del Banco Mundial dio la razón a El Salvador en un litigio contra la minera australiana-canadiense OceanaGold Corporation, que reclamaba al país 250 millones de dólares pornegarle un permiso de extracción en el 2009. Además, el organismo condenó a la minera a pagar ocho millones de dólares por los costos del litio y el pasado martes ordenó también a la compañía pagar los intereses sobre esa deuda.

sábado, 25 de marzo de 2017

Perú: La política, bañada de oro ilegal

Actualidad

Publicado: 25 Mar 2017 | 15:30 GMT

Reuters Janine Costa

A pesar del impacto negativo en el ámbito social y ambiental, la minería ilegal comienza a colarse en el escenario político de ese país.

La minería ilegal en Perú comienza a tener influencia en la política, afirma el exviceministro de Gestión Ambiental, José de Echave. El sector de la explotación minera ilegal, que ha causado daños en 17 áreas protegidas del país, "controla territorios, impone sus condiciones y tiene poder político", agrega.

Un gobernador y un congresista, con nexos en la minería ilegal

De Echave explica que tanto el gobernador como un congresista del departamento de Madre de Dios, en el sur del país y dedicado 90 % a la minería ilegal, tienen nexos públicamente conocidos con esa actividad ilícita.

El gobernador del departamento amazónico, Luis Otsuka (2015-2018), admitió tener dos concesiones de minería en la zona en una entrevista hecha por Ojo Público. Además fue presidente por dos años de la Federación de Mineros de Madre de Dios, tiene abierta una investigación por parte de la Fiscalía Especializada en Materia Ambiental y alentó protestas en contra de la legalización de los pequeños mineros en 2012 y 2014 según 'El Comercio'.

Una instalación ilegal de dragado de oro arde en un río cerca de la ciudad amazónica de Puerto Maldonado en PerúJanine CostaReuters

En esa región amazónica, que se han destruido 50.000 hectáreas (500 km) por la acción minera, el tema ambiental no pareciera ser la prioridad de su principal autoridad, quien se opone a la declaración de emergencia de 11 distritos de la región.

No son pobres, son mafias

"Deberíamos estar tan preocupados porque haya autoridades que han sido elegidas y que estén tan vinculadas a esa actividad ilegal", alerta De Echave.

El exviceministro considera que la opinión publica cree que la actividad ilícita, en las que participan unas 600.000 personas, según cifras no oficiales, es realizada por sectores empobrecidos que no tienen otra alternativa.

"No son pobres, son mafias que tienen poder económico, social, político; controlan los territorios e imponen condiciones muy duras", sostiene.

Un congresista del partido de Keiko

Modesto Figueroa Minaya (2016-2021), el único congresista del partido Fuerza Popular, de Keiko Fujimori, electo por Madre de Dios, fue denunciado por la Procuraduría Pública del Ministerio del Ambiente en 2014 ante la Fiscalía de Delitos de Lavado y Activos de ese país por el lavado de activos vinculados a la minería ilegal.

Según un documento legal publicado por el diario 'Correo', Figueroa Minaya tiene nexos con la familia Baca Casas, acusada de ser la principal productora de oro ilegal en Madre de Dios. "Existen fundadas sospechas para sostener que el denunciado brinda un especial servicio de comercialización de hidrocarburos para la minería ilegal, desplegando la conducta prevista en el tipo penal de Financiamiento de la Minería Ilegal", recoge el texto legal.

Un área deforestada por la minería ilegal en la zona Mega 14, ubicada en la región amazónica de Madre de Dios (Perú). Enrique Castro-MendivilReuters

La investigación abierta arroja además que Figueroa Minaya actúa como testaferro y comerciante de hidrocarburos del llamado clan Baca Casas.

También el protagonista del partido de Keiko Fujimori, que se enfrentó con el actual presidente Pedro Pablo Kuczynski en las pasadas elecciones de 2016, podría tener lazos con los mineros ilegales. Keiko "firmó un acuerdo, con fines electorales, con los mineros ilegales para desmantelar todas las leyes que los estaban afectando", expresa José de Echave.

Un marco legal desdibujado

En su opinión, las autoridades ligadas con la minería defienden sus intereses a través de "estrategias para tener poder político, y llegar al Congreso, donde se debaten las leyes".

De Echave considera que hay un retroceso en el aspecto legal, a pesar de que en 2012 se aprobó el Decreto Nº 1100, que incluyó en el Código Penal el delito de minería ilegal, y en 2010 se había declarado de interés nacional el ordenamiento minero en Madre de Dios.

"Ese marco legal, con el poder político que tienen, unido a que son un bolsón electoral importante, ha comenzado a retroceder, flexibilizarse y pienso que la minería ilegal difícilmente pueda ser controlada", concluyó el exviceministro.

jueves, 12 de enero de 2017

In Peru, a smelter's future stirs fears of its toxic past

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's efforts to revive a nearly 100-year-old smelting complex could overcome a crucial hurdle at a coming auction where five companies have shown interest in placing bids.

But celebration is far from universal given the sprawling smelter's toxic legacy and Kuczynski's criticism of environmental rules.

Reviving La Oroya, nestled in a destitute region in Peru's central Andes at nearly 3,800 meters (12,500 feet), would mark an early victory in Kuczynski's plan to ramp up the country's smelting capacity to wring more value from mineral shipments that make up at least half of overall export earnings.

    Such exalted goals are of little comfort to some La Oroya residents like Sonia Ponce, who worries the government will not do enough to prevent a repeat of the smelter's dirty past. Its smokestacks once spewed so much smoke that midday sometimes appeared to be evening, lacing the soil with heavy metals to a depth of two feet (60 cm) in some parts of town.

Hundreds of children in La Oroya have been found to have dangerous levels of lead in their blood, including Ponce's grandchildren, who once had to spend their days in a different town to reduce their exposure and today cannot keep up with schoolwork. "They're constantly fatigued," Ponce, 56, said from her home in a hillside slum in La Oroya, blaming the smelter. "It's very sad to see young people grow up sick. No one can give them their health back."

At the same time, scores of La Oroya residents have been agitating for a full revival of the smelter, which ground to a halt in 2009 but has since restarted some zinc production.

Dismissing pollution concerns as exaggerated, they say the town, which has already lost a quarter of its population, will wither away without it. "It's terrible to live like this," said Marisela Perez asshe waited for customers in her grocery shop. "There's no workand businesses are closing."

Finding a new owner for the smelter while ensuring a cleaner operation will be a key test for Kuczynski, 78, who once ran a mine in West Africa for Alcoa Corp, as he seeks to "modernize" the Andean country to cap an illustrious career in finance and public administration.

OBSTACLE TO INVESTMENTS

Five companies, including Chinese-owned steel waste recycler GreenNovo Environmental Technology, have signaled interest in buying the smelter in three days of auctions starting March 10, said Luis Castillo, a workers' representative in the group of creditors overseeing the sale.

Kuczynski said last year the smelter would be able to process copper concentrates from Chinese miner Chinalco's nearby Toromocho mine that contain arsenic levels that surpass Chinese import limits, forcing it to pay special fees. When the smelter's most recent owner, Doe Run Peru,controlled by New York billionaire Ira Rennert's Renco Group,operated La Oroya, sulfur dioxide emissions sometimes surpassed the daily limit of 365 micrograms by a factor of 10, according to a report by the environment ministry. "It used to import highly contaminating material to feed the smelter ... that ended up in the city and in residents," said Luis Egocheaga, the former manager of state clean-up agency Activos Mineros that is still working on removing pollution from soil in La Oroya. Doe Run Peru went bankrupt without finishing mandatory environmental upgrades, saying it had invested heavily to try to transform a creaking unit that had previously been under state control for decades.

A 2015 auction failed to draw any bidders as potential buyers fretted over liability for lingering pollution, labor contracts for some 2,200 workers and an estimated $700 million needed to clean up copper smelting, said Pablo Peschiera, the director of consulting firm Dirige, which is in charge of the bidding.

But Kuczynski, who declined requests to be interviewed, has said it would be cheaper to revive La Oroya if emission limits were looser, calling current standards an obstacle to investment in smelters.

While Peru's national sulfur dioxide limit is far stricter than Canada's, current law allows La Oroya to comply with a looser standard until 2029.

Kuczynski's government has said it is revising environmental rules.

"We want the metallurgical complex to be reactivated, but in an environmentally and socially responsible way," said La Oroya Mayor Carlos Arredondo.