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Peruvian prelate urges Congress to address environmental effects of US company’s mining

Catholic World News - July 23, 2012

One of Peru’s leading prelates traveled to Washington and urged members of a House subcommittee to hold a US company accountable for the environmental degradation caused by one of its subsidiaries.

“I am not here as a political leader or as an economic expert,” but as “a Catholic pastor who is disturbed by the terrible human health and environmental consequences of the heavy metal smelter operations of Doe Run Peru in the town of La Oroya since 1997,” said Archbishop Pedro Ricardo Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo. “Located in the central Peruvian Andes, the La Oroya metallurgical complex and smelter has contaminated the air, soil, and water of the town of La Oroya with airborne toxins … La Oroya is listed as one of the ten most contaminated places in the world.”

“I have been very critical of Doe Run Peru for its constant non-compliance with environmental standards as it operates this metallurgical complex,” he added. “I have been the victim of death threats and hostility, directed at me in my role as bishop and pastor to my flock.”

“The Church is not opposed to economic development or to mining, whether in La Oroya or elsewhere in the world,” he continued. “But, in being faithful to the principles and values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we believe that all economic activity must be at the service of comprehensive human development and the common good of society. Mining activity in particular must be conducted in ways that protect the health and the environment of affected communities.”

Fernando Serrano, principal investigator of the St. Louis University School of Public Health, also testified before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and said that 97% of the children in the La Oroya area have elevated blood levels of lead.

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