Environmental Watchdog Monitors Antamina Mine Spill

Peru’s environmental watchdog, OEFA, has started a review of a toxic spill that occurred in late July at mining company Antamina’s polymetallic mine in the Ancash region.

OEFA is looking into the situation to see if Antamina had an environmental contingency plan in place, Inforegion reported. A fine will be determined if applicable, once the review is finished.

“The state guarantees that if the company is responsible it will be fined,” said Mines and Energy Minister Jorge Merino. “But for that, there has to be due process,” he added.

According to media reports, at least 100 people have become ill with headaches, bloody noses and vomiting as a result of a leak in a pipeline transporting copper concentrates to the Pacific coast from the high Andean mountains in the Cordillera Negra range. The toxic spill occurred in the district of Cajacay, in the region of Ancash.

Antamina said that progress has been made in the clean-up of the spill and that it has sent a toxicologist, a pediatrician and other specialists to provide medical help to the community.

Although the company is providing assistance to some 200 people, it could face a backlash from local residents due to the spill.

Environmental contamination in the mining sector is a contentious issue in Peru, often pitting local communities concerned about pollution against politicians and businesses in Lima.

Antamina is the largest copper mine in Peru. The operation is owned by international companies Xstrata, BHP Billiton, Teck Resources and Mitsubishi.

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