Cleaning Up La Oroya, an article online at Christianity Today, reports on the team activities of a La Oroya, Peru, based ministry, and an Ohio based ministry, and their pursuit of cleaning up the contamination originating from a local smelter. Members of the ministries mention how they put pressure on the government of Peru, which granted seems to have worked, somewhat. However, the article, and those that they linked to, did not mention any pressure other than on the government, and the local administration of the smelter.
That’s too bad. The smelter is owned by the Don Roe Company, which proudly states on their main web page:
Our commitment to producing these materials in a safe and environmentally responsible manner is demonstrated through pioneering techniques that make our international operations more innovative, efficient and environmentally sound.
The Don Roe Company purchased the smelter, thereby inheriting a pre-existing mess, from the Peru government run company. The Don Roe Company is based in the United States. The United States based ministry should have started locally. It is much easier to get leverage against a public traded company, as bad news (especially bad PR, such as this) lowers stock prices, but one can still put pressure on privately owned companies, such as the Don Roe Company, as well.
A public relations campaign pointing out the contradiction between their “commitment” and the reality in Peru could work wonders. As the press loves printing bad news, it wouldn’t take much to get a few flames started. Also, as La Oroya produces copper and zinc (which is, honestly, one of the nastiest things to produce. It always comes with lead), one can talk to their customers, whom I am sure all have “environmentally-friendly” statements, and point out that their supplier(s) are operating in a method contrary to their statements. By including their customers in a public relations campaign, one can create even further pressure.
I am an amateur in all of this. My primary purpose in writing this, granted no one will probably ever read it, is to show that being blinded by local versus global is a bad thing, as it can limit your impact.
I would also like to point out that the article only seems to hint at the improvements that the Don Roe company is making. The focus of the article was the impact the ministries can have (even crossing continental and national boundaries) when they work together. And while I will not spend the time check the veracity of this, please read the Don Roe Company’s statement about what they are doing to improve both the La Oroya operation, and the surrounding community.
You might remember the wisdom of grade school:
“He who smelt it, dealt it.”
(Yes, I’m still 12 years old.)
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