Peru must find a comprehensive and sustainable solution for La Oroya

Doe Run Peru smelter

Doe Run Peru smelter. | Credit: Brian Wilson.

July 10, 2016

We call on the President-elect of Peru to take into account, in any assessment of or decision about La Oroya, the rights of the population affected by the city’s severe pollution.

La Oroya, Peru. On July 6, the President-elect of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, visited the Metallurgical Complex of La Oroya (CMLO) and announced to its workers that it was necessary for the next Congress to approve a law to extend the deadline for liquidation of the Complex. This, he said, would give the company time to secure investors and finish the copper circuit. He also asked the workers and people of La Oroya to march on Congress to support his proposal.

Reflecting on these public statements, the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH) and the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense would like to express the following:

  1. The city of La Oroya deserves the full attention of all levels and sectors of government to resolve in a comprehensive, specialized and sustainable way the demands of the population that, at various times in its history, has suffered, and continues to suffer, violations of their basic human rights, including the right to life, health, integrity, work and a healthy environment.
  2. Regarding the right to work, La Oroya requires a deep assessment that permits the State to propose and implement not only remedial actions, but also actions that will guarantee decent and lasting work that will sustain adequate living conditions for the entire population.
  3. No action can resolve the underlying problem in La Oroya if it does not provide a guarantee of public health for residents. In that regard, we would like to remind the President-elect that since 2007 a group of residents from La Oroya have been the beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that safeguard their life and personal integrity before the impacts of highly polluted air, soil and water. In May 2016, the Commission extended those precautionary measures to include new beneficiaries. In the corresponding resolution, the Commission stressed that harm to the health of the beneficiaries is exacerbated due to the lack of comprehensive medical care offered by the State. Its also worth noting that a case is pending before the Commission which seeks to hold the Peruvian government responsible for the violations to the population’s basic rights to life, health, and integrity—as well as to the rights of children—due to the lack of control of pollution in La Oroya and the lack of effective medical care for those affected by it.

We call on the President-elect to take into account, in any evaluation or decision on La Oroya, the rights of the population affected by the pollution. This should be done responsibly and with a comprehensive vision that guarantees the rights to life, health, work, and a healthy environment. It is inconceivable to favor the development of any economic activity over the health of the people. The incoming government faces the challenge of finding a comprehensive and sustainable solution for La Oroya, one that fully respects Peru’s national and international obligations to human rights and the environment.