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
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