LIMA – Peru, which so far has collected US$2 million from the private sector to clean up centuries of environmental damage at abandoned mines, needs up to US$1 billion to do the job, a government agency said recently.
“We calculate that Peru needs between $500 million and $1 billion,” Carlos Loret de Mola, head of Peru’s National Environmental Council (CONAM), told reporters. The $1-billion figure is quadruple last month’s World Bank estimate of $250 million.
“We don’t know the historical damage of other sectors. We’re calling on sectors such as fishing, farming and industry to detail their impact … to see where we can start the clean-up,” he added.
Loret de Mola said Peru has so far spent $150 million on closing exhausted mines and cleaning polluted rivers and farmland. Many mines abandoned during an era of lax or nonexistent environmental laws still leak pollutants into the countryside because they were never properly closed.
U.S.-based NEWMONT MINING, which owns Latin America’s largest gold mine Yanacocha, Peruvian miner BUENAVENTURA and South Africa’s GOLD FIELDS last week put $2 million toward a clean-up fund. The government says it will seek money from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank to boost the fund.
Nevertheless, Peruvian lawmakers are seeking to pass a new law that will make it easier to suspend miners’ permits if they are judged to have contaminated the environment. Concerning the new environmental law, there still is a great deal of opposition from some business, specifically in the mining sector. One of the most strongly opposed parts of the article is section 150, which states that companies, not the local government, are responsible for environmental damages.
The issue is still being debated in Congress, since a private company association (Confederacin Nacional de Instituciones Empresariales Privadas, Confiep) has warned legislators that if the law is finally approved, they will reject it for being unconstitutional.
Business leaders also argue the law is unnecessary and that mining companies, which generate more than half of Peru’s annual exports, have invested $900 million in more environmentally-friendly machinery and operations since 2001.