Peru's Kuczynski to try to reopen shuttered La Oroya smelter

miércoles 6 de julio de 2016 18:12 GYT

By Mitra Taj

LIMA, July 6 (Reuters) - Peru President-elect Pedro Pablo Kuczynski vowed on Wednesday to make his "strongest effort" to reopen the polymetallic smelter La Oroya, part of his goal of wringing more value out of the country's key mineral exports.

The former operator of the smelter, Doe Run Peru, owned by U.S.-based Renco Group Inc, halted operations at La Oroya in 2009 when it ran out of money to buy concentrates. The company also lacked financing needed to finish an environmental clean-up and to pay for upgrades to curb pollution.

Now controlled by Doe Run's former creditors, the smelter faces liquidation on Aug. 27 unless a new buyer is found.

"La Oroya is dying and we have to change that. We have to give it oxygen, oxygen from investors," Kuczynski said in televised comments before a crowd in the town of La Oroya, where former workers have held rallies to demand operations resume.

"You have my word that I'll make my strongest effort to push this out!" Kuczynski said to cheers. The former investment banker, 77, takes office on July 28.

Kuczynski asked La Oroya residents to march to Lima to help him press the incoming opposition-controlled Congress to extend the liquidation deadline. He did not say what he would do to make the smelter, which opened in 1922, more attractive.

Kuczynski's party will have just 18 lawmakers in the 130-member Congress, threatening his proposed reforms as the party of his defeated rival, Keiko Fujimori, will hold 73 seats.

Kuczynski wants Peru to become a refining and smelting hub to boost its copper, zinc, tin, gold and silver exports as slumping prices drag on growth. His first trip abroad as president will be to China to talk with officials about potential partnerships on refineries.   Continuación...