Environment - Pollution
1:29 pm
Wed August 1, 2012

Former Doe Run subsidiary criticized for smelter pollution in Peru

Updated 1:20 p.m. August 1 with reopening of smelter

The Doe Run Peru smelter in La Oroya, which had been clsoed due to financial and environmental compliance issues since 2009, resumed zinc processing operations over the weekend.

Peru's Minister of Energy and Mines, Jorge Merino Tafur, is reported to have said that lead smelting would also resume in the not too distant future. Restarting copper production would likely take longer, since that would require building a plant to control sulfuric acid emissions.

Doe Run Peru is owned by the Renco Group, which also owns the St. Louis-based Doe Run Resources Corporation. The metal smelting companies in Missouri and Peru have operated independently since 2007.

Updated 10:51 a.m. July 20 to clarify ownership of smelter. Original story posted July 19, 2012.

Missouri lead producer Doe Run is back under scrutiny for pollution resulting from metal smelting operations by its former subsidiary in Peru.

A subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives heard testimony today about the environmental and health effects of pollution from the Peruvian smelter — and discussed the joint responsibility of Doe Run and the Peruvian government for cleaning it up.

Saint Louis University environmental health expert Fernando Serrano has studied environmental pollution near the Doe Run Peru smelter — and its impacts on about 35,000 people in and around the small town of La Oroya.

“And the results indicated that practically the entire population of La Oroya was exposed to elevated levels of toxic metals,” Serrano said.

Serrano says residents’ blood levels of lead, cadmium and arsenic exceeded any acceptable health standards. He says the soils in the entire valley around the smelter are still highly contaminated.

St. Louis-based Doe Run said it would not be appropriate for it to comment on this story because it no longer owns the Peru facility. The company owned the Peruvian smelter for about a decade starting in 1997.

Both the St. Louis-based Doe Run Resources Corporation and Doe Run Peru are owned by The Renco Group, which is embroiled in litigation related to environmental contamination in La Oroya. The Renco Group also declined to comment.

The smelter has operated in La Oroya since 1922 but has been closed since 2009.