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Southern Copper mulls smelter closure

Keywords: Tags  Southern Copper, SPCC, Grupo Mexico, emissions controls, copper, Carolina Guerra

SÃO PAULO — Southern Copper Corp. (SCC) will consider closing its Ilo copper smelter and refinery in southern Peru if the government imposes stricter emissions controls.

"If the (new regime) of the environment ministry comes into force from January 2014, the (jobs) of at least 1,500 workers will be at risk," SCC said in a filing with the Peruvian stock exchange.

The potential closure was announced to workers July 5 in an e-mail, according to Peruvian newspaper El Comercio.

Peru’s environmental ministry intends to set a limit of 20 micrograms of sulfur dioxide (SO2) per cubic meter (µg/m3) vs. the current limit of 80 µg/m3.

In comparison, Japan has set a limit of 105 µg/m3, while countries such as the United States, Chile, Brazil and Mexico have a limit of 200 µg/m3.

"It is not possible for industries to meet the new standard of 20 µg/m3," SCC said.

The company invested $570 million in Ilo in 2007 to meet environmental standards.

SCC, which is 81 percent owned by Grupo México SAB de CV, operates two other mines in Peru: Toquepala and Cuajone.

SCC is producing an environmental impact study for its 120,000-tonnes-per-year Tía Maria copper project in the south of Peru. SCC’s Las Chancas project is at a feasibility study stage.

A version of this article was first published in AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin.

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