More than 100 sickened in Peru mining spill

Aug 3, 2012, 9:26 PM

Associated Press

LIMA, Peru (AP) – More than 100 Peruvian farmers have been sickened by the spill of a copper concentrate containing arsenic and lead produced at one of the Andean country’s biggest mines, authorities said Friday.

The Ancash state regional health office said 140 people were treated for “irritative symptoms caused by the inhalation of toxins” after a pipeline carrying the solution burst open in their community.

Most of the injured had joined in efforts to prevent the liquid from reaching a nearby river after the pipeline linking the Antamina copper mine to the coast ruptured last week in the village of Santa Rosa de Cajacay, said the community’s president, Hilario Moran.

“Without taking into account the consequences, we pitched in to help,” Moran told The Associated Press by phone.

The people used absorbent fabric provided by the mine but were not given gloves or protective masks, said Antonio Mendoza, the mine’s environmental director. Shortly afterward, people fell ill, vomiting, suffering headaches and nose bleeds.

About 30 people were taken to the San Pablo hospital in the highlands regional capital of Huaraz immediately after the July 25 spill, Moran said. “Some people continue to get sick and continue to go to Huaraz,” he added.

The director of the private San Pablo hospital, Raul Guisse, refused to say how many patients were being treated there Friday from the spill. He said he was not authorized by his superiors to provide the information by phone. Peru’s Civil Defense agency said July 28 that five children under age 10 were among those sickened.

Moran said Antamina is paying the health care costs of those sickened by the spill. Antamina is a consortium that includes some of the world’s biggest mining multinationals, BHP Billiton Ltd. of Australia, Xstrata PLC of Switzerland, TECK Cominco Ltd. of Canada and the Mitsubishi Corp. of Japan.

Peru’s Environment Ministry announced Thursday that it would release details on Saturday of medical exams of the victims.

Mendoza, the Antamina environmental director, told the AP that the substance that spilled “was not necessarily toxic.”

“It’s a dangerous substance to the extent that it’s an industrial substance,” he said. “They are dangerous substances that require a particular handling but aren’t necessarily toxic.”

Mendoza said the copper concentrate contains arsenic, sulfur, silica and small amounts of lead in small quantities that he did not specify. Arsenic and lead are both poisons.

The company said 45 tons of the concentrate spilled and all but 3 tons were cleaned up.

Moran and Mendoza said the spill was the first from the 190-mile (302-kilometer) pipeline, which delivers the copper concentrate to a treatment plant on the coast from which it is loaded on ships for export. The company says the pipeline measures between 8-10 inches (21-25 centimeters) in diameter.

Peru is the world’s No. 2 producer of copper behind Chile and mining has been central to its recent economic boom, accounting for more than 60 percent of export income.

But the environmental costs have had a negative social impact.

Fearing water supplies could be diminished or contaminated, residents of the bordering state of Cajamarca continue to resist a $5 billion gold mining project that would be Peru’s largest. The dispute has triggered violence that killed five civilians last month and prompted Peru’s government to impose a state of emergency that suspended civil liberties in three provinces. That emergency was extended Friday for another 30 days.

Environmental protection has been relatively lax in Peru. The country did not have an environmental ministry until 2008 and the mining ministry continues to sign off on environmental impact studies for mining projects.

One of the most serious toxic spills on record in Peru occurred in 2000 in Cajamarca when a tanker truck carrying mercury crashed and broke open in the village of Choropampa, sickening more than 700 people.

The mercury belonged to the Yanacocha consortium, whose majority owner is U.S.-based Newmont Mining Co. and which is in charge of the Conga project that has triggered all the opposition in Cajamarca.

___

Associated Press writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

World News

A fisherman watches smoke rise after Russian forces launched a missile attack on a military unit in...
Associated Press

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters hit by drone strike

An explosive device carried by a makeshift drone blew up Sunday at the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet on the Crimean Peninsula.
12 days ago
Medical syringes are seen with 'Monkeypox' sign displayed on a screen in the backgound in this illu...
Associated Press

Monkeypox declared a global emergency by UN health agency

The expanding monkeypox outbreak in more than 70 countries is an “extraordinary” situation that qualifies as a global emergency.
20 days ago
Chinese paramilitary policemen march in front of the Japanese embassy where the Japanese flag is fl...
Associated Press

Japan’s ex-leader Shinzo Abe assassinated during a speech

TOKYO (AP) — Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated Friday on a street in western Japan by a gunman who opened fire on him from behind as he delivered a campaign speech — an attack that stunned a nation with some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere. The 67-year-old Abe, who was Japan’s […]
1 month ago
Firefighters hose down a burning car after a strike hit a residential area, in Kramatorsk, Donetsk ...
Associated Press

Russia taking ‘operational pause’ in Ukraine, analysts say

Analysts say Russia may be taking an "operational pause" in eastern Ukraine to reassemble forces for a significant offensive.
1 month ago
Prime Minister Boris Johnson enters 10 Downing Street, after reading a statement in London, Thursda...
Associated Press

One scandal too many: British PM Boris Johnson resigns

LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his resignation Thursday after droves of top government officials quit over the latest scandal to engulf him, marking an end to three tumultuous years in which he tried to bluster his way through one ethical lapse after another. Months of defiance ended almost with a shrug as […]
1 month ago
Ukrainian servicemen carry the coffin with the remains of Army Col. Oleksander Makhachek during a f...
Associated Press

As Ukraine loses troops, how long can it keep up the fight?

ZHYTOMYR (AP) — As soon as they had finished burying a veteran colonel killed by Russian shelling, the cemetery workers readied the next hole. Inevitably, given how quickly death is felling Ukrainian troops on the front lines, the empty grave won’t stay that way for long. Col. Oleksandr Makhachek left behind a widow, Elena, and […]
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
More than 100 sickened in Peru mining spill