Huancayo Archbishop Pedro Barreto Jimeno received a death threat after calling for a controversial smelter to meet environmental requirements before being allowed to resume operations.
Two laypeople on the archdiocesan team managing an environmental project to clean up air and water in the Mantaro River Valley also received death threats made from a public telephone to their mobile phones.
Emissions from the smelter, owned by Doe Run Peru, a subsidiary of the New York-based Renco Group, have been linked to lead poisoning in La Oroya residents, especially children. The smelter shut down in mid-2009 because of financial problems but is likely to resume operations in May.
When Doe Run bought the plant from Peru’s state-run mining company in 1997, it was required to upgrade environmental controls. The deadline for reduction of sulfur dioxide emissions has been extended several times, and the company is seeking another extension so it can start up again.
The archdiocese called for the company to comply with environmental requirements. The archbishop has repeatedly said that local residents should not have to choose between jobs and a healthy environment.