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INDEPENDENT COMMISSION APPOINTED TO INVESTIGATE MERCURY INCIDENT NEAR PERUVIAN MINE


Meg Taylor            
Phone: (202) 458-9452
Fax:     (202) 522-7400
E-mail: mtaylor@ifc.org


WASHINGTON, D.C., July 21, 2000 – In the aftermath of a mercury spill last month near the Yanacocha gold mine in northern Peru, IFC's Office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO) has, at the request of Yanacocha and its shareholders, appointed an independent commission to determine the causes, responses and lessons for prevention of future accidents. Yanacocha's shareholders are Newmont Mining Corporation of the US, Buenaventura of Peru and IFC.
On June 2, 2000 mercury was spilled in and near the town of Choropampa from a truck operated by a contractor to Yanacocha. In the aftermath of the incident, a number of people reported symptoms of mercury poisoning and were hospitalized. Most have now been released. A coordinated effort involving Yanacocha and local and national authorities was mounted to inform the affected communities, recover mercury, and provide emergency medical support. These efforts continue alongside work to formulate a longer-term plan for environmental safety and public health. IFC and World Bank officials traveled to Peru following the incident to assess the situation on the ground and assist in follow-up measures.
The former Minister of the Environment of Colombia, Manuel Rodriguez, will chair the commission comprised of internationally renowned experts in public health, environmental health and safety and emergency response planning. The commissioners include individuals with expertise in the hazards of heavy metals, including mercury.
The independent commission has been asked to establish the events relating to the spill of hazardous substances and the extent to which the company's Emergency Response Plan was adequate and respected. It will consider what could be done to make such an accident less likely and will recommend immediate additional action to mitigate the effects of the spill and suggest any long-term adjustments that may be needed.
The independent commission will take three weeks to carry out its investigations and will report directly to the CAO, Meg Taylor, who will brief the shareholders on the commission's findings and recommendations. The shareholders will be given 10 working days to comment. The Office of the CAO will then release its recommendations to the public.
The CAO office was established in June 1999 to deal with environmental and social concerns and complaints of people directly affected by projects financed by IFC and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The CAO reports directly to the President of the World Bank Group, James Wolfensohn.
The mission of IFC, part of the World Bank Group, is to promote private sector investment in developing countries, which will reduce poverty and improve people's lives. IFC finances private sector investments in the developing world, mobilizes capital in the international financial markets, and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses.
Questions related to the Independent Commission should be addressed directly to the Office of the CAO.
Contact information for the Office of the CAO:

Phone: (202) 458-9452, (202) 458-5237

Fax: (202) 522-7400

E-mail:
cao-compliance@ifc.org
Internet: www.ifc.org/cao