LIMA – A general strike against troubled U.S.-owned miner Doe Run Peru has paralyzed the central city of La Oroya, Peruvian police told Efe on Monday.
Employees at Doe Run’s giant smelter in La Oroya were out in force before dawn to shut down the main road linking the region with Lima, 185 kilometers (115 miles) to the west.
Though police later cleared the highway, motorists continue to avoid the area due to the presence of pickets, authorities said, noting the absence of any violence so far.
Schools and businesses remained closed in solidarity with the strike, as most La Oroya residents work for Doe Run, which suspended operations a year ago amid severe financial problems and the firm’s failure to comply with a government-mandated environmental clean-up program known as the PAMA.
The minister of energy and mines, Pedro Sanchez, told RPP radio Monday that the La Oroya smelter will be shuttered July 24 unless Doe Run meets the government’s conditions for resuming operations.
Dismissing concerns about job losses, he said Doe Run’s roughly 3,000 employees could easily find work with other mining outfits in central Peru.
Transport Minister Enrique Cornejo said his department has established three alternate routes to ensure transit for Lima-bound passengers and cargo, while the Interior Ministry announced the dispatch of 2,000 police to La Oroya and the National Ombudsman’s Office urged strikers to avoid confrontation with authorities.
Doe Run Peru has operated the La Oroya smelter – which produces lead, zinc, copper, silver and gold, as well as byproducts such as sulfuric acid and indium – since 1997 and the Cobriza copper mine in the southern Huancavelica region since 1998.
The firm pared back operations to a minimum in June 2009, saying it lacked sufficient funds after a group of foreign banks had cut off its credit line a few months earlier.
The company, owned by U.S.-based Renco Group, also was expelled from Peru’s National Association of Mining, Petroleum and Energy in January for its alleged lack of willingness to complete the PAMA.
Doe Run Peru has carried out roughly half of the clean-up work, but needs another $160 million to finish the job in La Oroya, one of the world’s most polluted places. EFE